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We found that people with the highest intake of full-fat dairy had 70 percent less chance of death by heart disease or stroke than those who had the lowest intake of full-fat dairy, said Dr. Jolieke van der Pols from QIMR's Cancer and Population Studies Group citing results of the study. It is possible that milk fat may contain nutrients that counteract the expected negative effects of the saturated fat in dairy products.

Pols was referring to conjugated linoleic acids in full-fat dairy as the ones providing some defence against a heart attack.

The study surveyed the diet of 1,500 Australians over a 16-year period focusing on their dairy intake. The results did not associate the total intake of dairy products to cardiovascular or even cancer death.

The findings suggesting that full-fat dairy products might actually protect against heart attack or stroke raises question to the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council to eat low-fat cheese and drink low-fat milk to guard against weight gain and obesity.

But Associate Professor Manny Noakes from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation said the QIMR study's findings are purely speculative at the moment and no human studies have demonstrated a cause and effect relationship between high full-fat dairy intake and cardiovascular disease.

What we may be observing is that people who consume a lot of dairy, which certainly has a high level of nutrition, may also be eating a better diet overall, which may be protective, according to Noakes as quoted by Abc.net.au.

Professor Robert Graham, executive director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, said the study is too small to draw any solid conclusions.

I think at best what this study suggests is that we should look at the issue more carefully in a much larger group of patients, Abc,net.au quoted him as saying.