Feeney EL; Sullivan A; Nugent AP; McNulty B; Walton J; Flynn A; Gibney ER. - - Nutr Diabetes 2017; 7: e243.

Patterns of dairy food intake, body composition and markers of metabolic health in Ireland: results from the National Adult Nutrition Survey

BACKGROUND: Studies examining the association between dairy consumption and metabolic health have shown mixed results. This may be due, in part, to the use of different definitions of dairy, and to single types of dairy foods examined in isolation.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to examine associations between dairy food intake and metabolic health, identify patterns of dairy food consumption and determine whether dairy dietary patterns are associated with outcomes of metabolic health, in a cross-sectional survey.

DESIGN: A 4-day food diary was used to assess food and beverage consumption, including dairy (defined as milk, cheese, yogurt, cream and butter) in free-living, healthy Irish adults aged 18-90 years (n=1500). Fasting blood samples (n=897) were collected, and anthropometric measurements taken. Differences in metabolic health markers across patterns and tertiles of dairy consumption were tested via analysis of covariance. Patterns of dairy food consumption, of different fat contents, were identified using cluster analysis.

RESULTS: Higher (total) dairy was associated with lower body mass index, %body fat, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio (P<0.001), and lower systolic (P=0.02) and diastolic (P<0.001) blood pressure. Similar trends were observed when milk and yogurt intakes were considered separately. Higher cheese consumption was associated with higher C-peptide (P<0.001). Dietary pattern analysis identified three patterns (clusters) of dairy consumption; ‘Whole milk’, ‘Reduced fat milks and yogurt’ and ‘Butter and cream’. The ‘Reduced fat milks and yogurt’ cluster had the highest scores on a Healthy Eating Index, and lower-fat and saturated fat intakes, but greater triglyceride levels (P=0.028) and total cholesterol (P=0.015).

CONCLUSION: Overall, these results suggest that while milk and yogurt consumption is associated with a favourable body phenotype, the blood lipid profiles are less favourable when eaten as part of a low-fat high-carbohydrate dietary pattern. More research is needed to better understand this association.