Nutrition Research Reviews

Review Article

The impact of substituting SFA in dairy products with MUFA or PUFA on CVD risk: evidence from human intervention studies

Katherine M. Livingstonea1 c1, Julie A. Lovegrovea2 and D. Ian Givensa1

a1 Food Production and Quality Research Division, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK

a2 Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research (ICMR), School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK


With the substantial economic and social burden of CVD, the need to modify diet and lifestyle factors to reduce risk has become increasingly important. Milk and dairy products, being one of the main contributors to SFA intake in the UK, are a potential target for dietary SFA reduction. Supplementation of the dairy cow's diet with a source of MUFA or PUFA may have beneficial effects on consumers' CVD risk by partially replacing milk SFA, thus reducing entry of SFA into the food chain. A total of nine chronic human intervention studies have used dairy products, modified through bovine feeding, to establish their effect on CVD risk markers. Of these studies, the majority utilised modified butter as their primary test product and used changes in blood cholesterol concentrations as their main risk marker. Of the eight studies that measured blood cholesterol, four reported a significant reduction in total and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) following chronic consumption of modified milk and dairy products. Data from one study suggested that a significant reduction in LDL-C could be achieved in both the healthy and hypercholesterolaemic population. Thus, evidence from these studies suggests that consumption of milk and dairy products with modified fatty acid composition, compared with milk and dairy products of typical milk fat composition, may be beneficial to CVD risk in healthy and hypercholesterolaemic individuals. However, current evidence is insufficient and further work is needed to investigate the complex role of milk and cheese in CVD risk and explore the use of novel markers of CVD risk.

(Received February 13 2012)

(Revised April 12 2012)

(Accepted April 13 2012)

(Online publication August 06 2012)

Key Words:

  • SFA;
  • Milk;
  • Dairy products;
  • CVD


c1 Corresponding author: Katherine M. Livingstone, email


  Abbreviations: FA, fatty acid; HC, hypercholesterolaemic; HDL-C, HDL-cholesterol; LDL-C, LDL-cholesterol; NC, normocholesterolaemic; RBH, ruminal biohydrogenation; R-TFA, ruminant trans-fatty acid; TC, total cholesterol; UFA, unsaturated fatty acid