Background: Growing evidence suggests that dairy products may have beneficial cardiometabolic effects. The current guidelines, however, limit the intake of full-fat dairy products.
Objective: We investigated the association of dairy consumption, types of dairy products, and dairy fat content with metabolic syndrome (MetSyn).
Methods: We analyzed baseline data of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil), a multicenter cohort study of 15,105 adults aged 35–74 y. We excluded participants with known diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or other chronic diseases, and those who had extreme values of energy intake, leaving 9835 for analysis. Dairy consumption was assessed by a food-frequency questionnaire. We computed servings per day for total and subgroups of dairy intake. We computed a metabolic risk score (MetScore) as the mean z score of waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol (negative z score), fasting triglycerides, and fasting glucose. We performed multivariable linear regression to test the association of servings per day of dairy products with MetScore.
Results: In analyses that adjusted for demographics, menopausal status, family history of diabetes, dietary intake, nondietary lifestyle factors, and body mass index, we observed a graded inverse association for MetScore with total dairy (−0.044 ± 0.01, P = 0.009 for each additional dairy servings per day) and full-fat dairy (−0.126 ± 0.03, P < 0.001) but not with low-fat dairy intake. Associations were no longer present after additional adjustments for dairy-derived saturated fatty acids.
Conclusions: Total and especially full-fat dairy food intakes are inversely and independently associated with metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and older adults, associations that seem to be mediated by dairy saturated fatty acids. Dietary recommendations to avoid full-fat dairy intake are not supported by our findings.