Research Reveals Potential Link Between Dairy Sensitivities and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

by Ella

Recent research suggests that individuals with difficulty digesting dairy may face an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, marking a noteworthy addition to identified risk factors. While asthma and eczema have previously been associated with cardiovascular issues, food sensitivities have not been included in this list until now.


Conducted by scientists and published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the study highlights a potential connection between dairy sensitivity or allergy and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The research, led by Corrine Keet, MD, PhD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, analyzed two longitudinal studies involving over 4,000 and 900 adults, respectively. The findings indicate a significant correlation between immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies produced in response to dairy consumption and a higher risk of cardiovascular death.


This association persisted even when accounting for conventional cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes. However, it’s important to note that the study does not establish causation; it suggests an increased risk.


Keet emphasized, “The data are from observational studies and show correlation. We have not established causation.”


Impact of Food Sensitivity on Cardiovascular Health

According to Keet, allergists have long known that allergic reactions can involve the cardiovascular system. The study suggests that the association between IgE and cardiovascular disease is strongest for those regularly consuming the allergen, indicating a connection beyond acute allergic reactions. Allergic responses involve the immune system, releasing substances like histamines and cytokines.

While these substances play a crucial role in defending against pathogens, chronic inflammation is recognized as a factor in cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis. The presence of IgE antibodies to common food allergens, as found in the study, is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Further research is required to unravel the specific mechanisms through which allergic reactions might impact cardiovascular health. Keet’s findings challenge the traditional view of allergies as isolated systems, suggesting systemic implications extending to cardiovascular health.

Distinguishing Between Food Sensitivity and Food Allergy

Understanding the difference between food sensitivity and food allergies is essential. IgE antibodies are produced when exposed to allergens, releasing chemicals that can cause allergic reactions. However, not everyone producing IgE to foods experiences allergic symptoms.

While the study did not confirm clinical food allergies among participants, it is assumed that most weren’t severely allergic. The findings are particularly relevant to those without diagnosed food allergies.

Keet cautioned against making changes based solely on the study, emphasizing the need for more research to determine the causal relationship between food-specific IgE and cardiovascular disease.

Recommendations for Heart Health in Individuals with Allergies

While causation remains unclear, individuals with food sensitivities or allergies are advised to prioritize overall heart health through lifestyle measures. Recommendations include adopting a heart-healthy diet, incorporating a balanced mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and engaging in regular physical activity for cardiovascular fitness and weight management.

For those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, intensive management is recommended. Monitoring and managing allergies should be integrated into routine healthcare, considering potential broader health implications. Until more is known, a holistic approach to health, addressing both allergy management and cardiovascular health, is advisable for individuals with known allergies.


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