It’s great news for cheese and butter fans - scientists have found that eating dairy food doesn’t increase your risk of a heart attack.
Nutritionists surveyed thousands of middle-aged people and found that even those who ate more than half a kilo of cheese did not seem to suffer from increased risk.
Contrary to earlier beliefs that saturated fat might lead to a heart attack, researchers found that nutrients in dairy products actually counteract the harmful effects.
Researcher Stella Aslibekyan, of Brown University, Rhode Island, where the research was carried out, said: ‘Things like milk and cheese are very complex substances.
‘We looked at heart attack risk and dairy products in their entirety and then looked at separate components of those dairy products, including fats, and it turns out that the results are null.
‘Perhaps the evidence is not there.’
Her team doesn’t believe the saturated fats in dairy products are harmless, but suggest other nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium may protect against heart disease for all but those who ate the most of them in their study.
Their findings, taken from 3,630 Costa Rican men, are published in the Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases journal.
They found the dairy intake of people who had heart attacks was no different to the intake of people who did not.
Looking at how much dairy food they ate, there was no link between consumption and heart attack risk, even among those who consumed as much as 593 grams a day.
When the researchers accounted for other factors such as smoking, alcohol and exercise, there was still no difference, statistically.
Dr Ana Baylin said: ‘The message is that it is important to look at the net effect of whole foods and dietary patterns and not only isolated nutrients.’