Those who regularly drink milk have a lower risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Reading analysed three large population studies and found that people who regularly drank high amounts of milk had lower levels of both good and bad cholesterol, although their body mass index (BMI) levels were higher than non-milk drinkers.
Meanwhile, a further analysis of other large studies suggested that those who regularly consumed milk had a 14 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease.
The team took a genetic approach by investigating a variation in the lactase gene associated with the digestion of milk sugars known as lactose as they found that people who drank a lot of milk have the genetic variation which enables them to digest lactose.
"We found that among participants with a genetic variation that we associated with higher milk intake, they had higher BMI, body fat, but importantly had lower levels of good and bad cholesterol," said Professor Vimal Karani, Professor of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics at the university. "We also found that those with the genetic variation had a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease. All of this suggests that reducing the intake of milk might not be necessary for preventing cardiovascular diseases.
"What we do note in the study is that it remains unclear whether it is the fat content in dairy products that is contributing to the lower cholesterol levels or it is due to an unknown 'milk factor'."
The findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity.