Certain fats occurring naturally in dairy products, such as cream and buttermilk, could reduce cardiovascular risk in overweight postmenopausal women, according to research from Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research.
The study hails from Inserm scientists working in collaboration with France's Inra agricultural science research institute and several scientific institutes from the country's Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and is published in the Gut journal. It focuses on the benefits of certain fats, called "polar lipids" for postmenopausal women.
Polar lipids occur naturally in dairy products, notably in cream and buttermilk. They play an important physiological role because they are essential components of cell membranes.
Previous animal studies have revealed the beneficial effects of milk polar lipids on liver metabolism and the regulation of blood cholesterol levels. However, these effects had not previously been demonstrated in humans with high cardiovascular risk.
The scientists therefore set about investigating the effects of milk polar lipids on the cardiovascular risk profiles of overweight postmenopausal women, a group that is particularly vulnerable to cardiovascular risk.
Towards new nutritional strategies
The scientists studied 58 such women, who were asked to integrate a cream cheese spread enriched with polar lipids into their daily diet for one month. At the end of the study period, their blood levels of LDL (or "bad") cholesterol and triglycerides had significantly reduced, as well as other important markers of cardiometabolic risk.
After undertaking complementary studies to understand the mechanisms at work, the authors discovered that certain milk polar lipids and cholesterol may form a complex in the small intestine that is excreted in stool rather than absorbed by the body.
The researchers conclude that the findings could offer a basis for new nutritional strategies in reducing cardiovascular risk factors in certain vulnerable groups of individuals. The findings could also help promote the diversification of ingredients in the agrifood industry.