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Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of disorders that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Having metabolic syndrome increases a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death. An estimated one billion people worldwide have metabolic syndrome. Findings from a new study indicate that dairy product intake is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its complications.

Dairy products comprise a wide range of foods derived from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, and others. They provide protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat. The nutritional benefits of dairy products are hotly debated.

The study drew on data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study, which involved participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The authors of the study first conducted a cross-sectional analysis involving nearly 113,000 people to determine whether there was an association between dairy intake and prevalence of metabolic syndrome. The participants completed food frequency questionnaires that provided information about their dietary intake, including dairy products.

Analysis of the questionnaires revealed that people who consumed two or more servings of dairy products per day were 24 percent less likely to have metabolic syndrome. If they consumed two or more servings of high fat dairy products (instead of low fat) per day, they were 28 percent less likely to have metabolic syndrome.

The study authors also conducted a prospective analysis to determine whether there was an association between dairy intake and the incidence of hypertension and diabetes. They reviewed data from nearly 190,000 participants. People who consumed three or more servings of dairy products per day were as much as 14 percent less likely to develop the two conditions. The associations were stronger when the people consumed full fat dairy products (instead of low fat).

High fat dairy products include full fat milk, full fat yogurt, and cheese. Cheese, in particular, contains spermidine, a compound that serves as a calorie restriction mimetic, capable of inducing autophagy even in the setting of sufficient nutrient intake. Watch this clip with autophagy expert Dr. Guido Kroemer in which he describes this phenomenon.

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