Does Drinking Milk Contribute to Heart Disease?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an Oct. 25, 2016 press release titled "Study Sheds Light on Dairy Fat and Cardiovascular Disease Risk," available from hsph.harvard.edu, wrote:

"[A] new study by Harvard Chan School researchers published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the relationship between dairy fat intake and risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. Researchers followed more than 43,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 87,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study, and 90,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study II... For dairy lovers, the good news is that various foods including full-fat dairy milk, yogurt, butter, cheeses, and cream were not found to increase heart disease risk (compared to a background diet that typically contains high amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars). However, it is important to note that these foods were not found to decrease risk either.

What did predict risk of cardiovascular disease was 'fat swapping.' When dairy fat was replaced with the same number of calories from vegetable fat or polyunsaturated fat, the risk of cardiovascular disease dropped by 10% and 24%, respectively. Furthermore, replacing the same number of calories from dairy fat with healthful carbohydrates from whole grains was associated with a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Replacing dairy fat with other types of animal fat, such as from red meat, predicted a modest 6% higher risk of cardiovascular disease."

Oct. 25, 2016 - Harvard School of Public Health 



PRO (yes)

Karl Michaëlsson, MD, PhD, Professor of Medical Epidemiology at Uppsala University (Sweden), et al., in an Oct. 27, 2014 article for the British Medical Journal titled "Milk Intake and Risk of Mortality and Fractures in Women and Men: Cohort Studies," wrote:

"Among women in the Swedish Mammography Cohort, with analysis based on repeated exposure measurements, we observed a positive association between milk intake and total mortality...

Milk consumption corresponding to three or more glasses of milk a day (mean 680 g a day) compared with less than one glass a day (mean 60 g a day), was associated with... [increased] cardiovascular mortality...

Men in the Cohort of Swedish Men also had a higher rate of death with higher milk consumption. However, the excess risk was less pronounced than in women... [consumption of] three or more glasses of milk a day (mean 830 g a day) compared with less than one glass a day (mean 50 g a day) and was mainly associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular death."

Oct. 27, 2014 - Karl Michaëlsson, MD, PhD 



Margaret Moss, MA, Director of the Nutrition & Allergy Clinic in Manchester, UK, in her study "Does Milk Cause Coronary Heart Disease?" published in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine on Sep. 1, 2002, wrote:

"Several studies have been published showing a high positive correlation between milk consumption in different countries and rates of death a few years later from CHD [Coronary Heart Disease]. One investigation showed that countries which reduced milk consumption later had reduced rates of CHD death, while the only country studied which increased its milk consumption [Portugal] had an increased rate of CHD death."

Sep. 1, 2002 - Margaret Moss, MA 



William B. Grant, PhD, senior research scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), wrote in his article "Milk and Other Dietary Influences on Coronary Heart Disease," published in 1998 in the Alternative Medicine Review:

"The statistical results of the present study confirm the finding...that the non-fat components of milk are important in the etiology [cause or origin] of heart disease for both males and females... Given the strong statistical link between milk carbohydrates, non-fat milk and heart disease in this study...much more attention should be given to the study of the link between dietary bovine milk and heart disease."

1998 - William B. Grant, PhD 



Boyd Swinburn, MD, Chair in Population Health in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University, in a report commissioned by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, titled "Beta Casein A1 and A2 in Milk and Human Health," and completed July 13, 2004, concluded:

"About 25-30% of the protein in cows' milk is beta casein... One of the forms is called A1 beta casein and it has been suggested that it might cause or aggravate one type 1 diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia, and autism.

The strongest evidence is for type 1 diabetes and heart disease. The main study supporting a relationship with the type of milk consumed was a comparison of 20 countries. Those countries with the highest consumption of A1 beta casein had the highest rates of type 1 diabetes and heart disease."

July 13, 2004 - Boyd Swinburn, MD 



Joseph Mercola, DO, osteopath and author, in an undated article on his website titled "Don't Drink Your Milk!" (accessed Sep. 17, 2007), wrote:

"There is also a problem with a protein enzyme called xanthine oxidase which is in cow's milk. Normally, proteins are broken down once you digest them.

However, when milk is homogenized, small fat globules surround the xanthine oxidase and it is absorbed intact into your blood stream. There is some very compelling research demonstrating clear associations with this absorbed enzyme and increased risks of heart disease."

Sep. 17, 2007 - Joseph Mercola, DO 



Stephen Seely, MD, cardiologist and researcher, wrote in his 1991 article "Is Calcium Excess in Western Diet a Major Cause of Arterial Disease?" published in the International Journal of Cardiology:

"The general observation can be made that, in countries where the daily calcium intake is 200-400 mg, arterial diseases are non-existent. Blood pressure does not increase with age. In countries where the daily intake is 800 mg, arterial disease is the leading cause of mortality. A more specific indicator is the strong positive correlation between consumption of milk and mortality from coronary arterial disease."

1991 - Stephen Seeley 



CON (no)

The European Milk Forum (EMF), in an article for milknutritiousbynature.eu (accessed July 18, 2018) titled "Cardiovascular Disease," wrote:

"A number of analyses... strengthen the evidence that regularly consuming milk and other dairy products does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease and may even have a protective effect. In relation to milk, an overview conducted in 2010 concluded that milk drinking is not harmful and may be associated with a small but worthwhile reduction in risk of coronary heart disease (8%) and a more substantial reduction in stroke risk (21%) for those who drank the most milk compared with those who drank the least. The pooled results of seventeen studies in 2011 also found milk intake was associated with a small potential reduction in overall cardiovascular risk of 6% for each 200ml of milk consumed a day. This analysis found no association between high intakes of either regular-fat or low-fat dairy products and increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Similarly, systematic reviews in 2015 and 2017 examining milk consumption and cardiovascular disease [CVD] mortality observed no consistent association. This was also the conclusion for milk and CVD risk in a meta-analysis published in 2016; milk intake was found to be neutral with respect to risk of stroke and coronary artery disease."

July 18, 2018 - European Milk Forum (EMF) 



Peter Elwood, MD, Professor of Epidemiology at Cardiff University, et al., in their study "Milk Drinking, Ischaemic Heart Disease and Ischaemic Stroke II. Evidence from Cohort Studies," published May 2004 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded:

"Cohort studies provide no convincing evidence that milk is harmful. While there still could be residual confounding from unidentified factors, the studies, taken together, suggest that milk drinking may be associated with a small but worthwhile reduction in heart disease and stroke risk."

May 2004 - Peter Elwood, MD 



The UC Berkeley School of Public Health published an article in its monthly Wellness Letter titled "Udder Confusion," (accessed Sep. 13, 2007), stating:

"Claim: Dairy products increase the risk of heart disease.

Facts: If you consume lots of whole milk and cheese, you're likely to raise your blood cholesterol levels. That's true, however, of any foods rich in saturated fat and cholesterol. Milk's opponents talk as if all milk is still whole milk. But more and more dairy products these days are nonfat or low-fat, and thus do not raise cholesterol levels significantly. In fact, there's some evidence that certain substances in milk may help lower cholesterol somewhat...

Milk opponents often quote a paper in Alternative Medicine Review [1998 study by William Grant] that indicted milk, even nonfat milk, as a cause of heart disease. But that article was simplistic and misleading. It found an association between milk consumption and heart disease in population studies from 32 countries, but the data did not allow the researcher to take into consideration many of the other factors that can affect the risk of heart disease."

Sep. 13, 2007 - UC Berkeley School of Public Health 



Luc Djoussé, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and James S. Pankow, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, et al., wrote in their study "Influence of Saturated Fat and Linolenic Acid on the Association Between Intake of Dairy Products and Blood Pressure," published June 26, 2006 in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association:

"Our data found that dairy consumption is inversely associated with prevalent HTN [hypertension] and resting SBP [systolic blood pressure] mainly among individuals consuming less saturated fat and independent of dietary calcium. These findings lend support to the recommendation of low-fat dairy consumption as a mean to lower blood pressure."

[Note: High blood pressure is commonly considered to increase the risk of heart disease.]

June 26, 2006 - Luc Djoussé, MD, DSc 



Peter Elwood, MD, Professor of Epidemiology at Cardiff University, et al., in their study "Milk Consumption, Stroke, and Heart Attack Risk: Evidence from the Caerphilly Cohort of Older Men," published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2005, concluded:

"The men with the greater consumption of milk experienced a reduction in the risk of ischaemic [inadequate blood flow] stroke and a possible reduction in ischaemic heart disease risk. Explanations of these results other than a beneficial effect of milk would seem to be unlikely. The present perception of milk as harmful, in increasing cardiovascular risk, should be challenged and every effort should be made to restore it to its rightful place in a healthy diet."

2005 - Peter Elwood, MD 



The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a report titled "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart" in Dec. 2005, stating:

"Certain mineral-rich foods can help keep blood pressure levels healthy... Calcium and magnesium are two other minerals that may help to prevent high blood pressure, as well as improve health in other ways. Low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products are rich sources of calcium."

Dec. 2005 - United States Department of Health and Human Services 
"Your Guide to a Healthy Heart" (2.18MB)