Cardiovascular Risk and Dairy Products: Lessons from the Food Matrix


As a leading cause of mortality in Canada, cardiometabolic diseases have been a longstanding priority for researchers and healthcare professionals. Lifestyle modifications are a key strategy in the prevention and management of cardiometabolic disease and its complications. Specifically, adapted dietary recommendations based on the latest scientific evidence are critical in effectively managing and reducing cardiometabolic risk.

As a first presentation in a series of 3 webinars on “Cardiometabolic Health and Risk Reduction – Findings from Recent Canadian Studies”, watch a webinar presented by Dr. Benoît Lamarche and Dr. Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier.

Did you miss the other webinars in this series? Watch the second webinar (Metabolic control, satiety, and diet across the lifespan) and the third webinar (Association between dietary intakes and cardiovascular risk of Canadians).

CNS 3-part webinar series 2022
Cardiovascular risk and dairy products: lessons from the food matrix
Watch here

Note that this presentation is free of charge and accessible to both CNS members and non-members. 

By the end of the webinar, participants will:

  • Better understand the limitations of the nutrient-based approach to healthy eating and the importance of considering the food matrix/whole food effect;
  • Have an up-to-date perspective on the saturated fatty acid (SFA)/cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk debate;
  • Understand how the use of metabolomics can further advance our understanding of the health effects of dairy products.

Key topics addressed:

  • Overview of recent evidence on the association between dietary SFA and CVD health;
  • The place of fatty acids in a healthy diet, including:
    • The contributions of different food groups to the SFA intake of Canadians;
    • The potential effects of the food matrix/whole food effect on CVD risk;
    • The relevance of comprehensive, food-based recommendations rather than a nutrient-based focus for improving populational health.

Key findings:

  • In a multicenter, crossover, randomized controlled trial with 92 participants, cheese was found to have a differential effect on LDL cholesterol than butter, thus suggesting that the food matrix may modify the cardiometabolic effect of saturated fat on health.1
  • According to a study using data from the 2015 CCHS, “other foods” (those not included as a part of the Canadian Food Guide) contribute 44.2% of the saturated fat in the diets of Canadians, while meat and alternatives contribute 24.5% and milk and alternatives, 23.3%.2
  • Using 2015 CCHS data in a model substituting foods high in SFA with a corresponding low SFA/high unsaturated fatty acid replacement food, replacements in the ‘other foods’ category showed the greatest potential for reaching the SFA target: 2
    • Substituting the “other foods” category accounted for most of the predicted reduction in usual SFA intakes among Canadians, with 82% achieving the recommended SFA target (less than 10% of total energy);
    • Substituting dairy or meat only led to 62.6% and 54.3% achieving SFA targets, respectively.
  • Shifting the focus from nutrient-based recommendations to a more comprehensive dietary pattern-based approach may be more beneficial for health and may in turn encourage consumers to make food-based choices.
  • A score based on 38 metabolites, which were identified as being associated with dairy intake, showed an inverse association with type 2 diabetes risk in Spanish and US populations.3


  1. Brassard D et al. Comparison of the impact of SFAs from cheese and butter on cardiometabolic risk factors: a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2017;105(4):800-809.
  2. Harrison S et al. Consumption and sources of saturated fatty acids according to the 2019 Canada Food Guide: data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey. Nutrients 2019;11(9):1964.
  3. Drouin-Chartier JP et al. Dairy consumption, plasma metabolites, and risk of type 2 diabetes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021;114(1):163-174.
Rajavel Elango, PhD, University of British Columbia


Dr. Rajavel Elango is an Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, School of Population and Public Health at the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. He is also a scientist level 1 at the Child & Family Research Institute, BC Children's Hospital, and an associate member in the Human Nutrition Program at the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia. His PhD work involved the determination of branched-chain amino acid requirements in parenterally and enterally fed neonatal piglets in the laboratory of Dr. Ron Ball, University of Alberta. 

Benoît Lamarche, PhD


Benoît Lamarche is Full Professor at the School of Nutrition and Scientific Director of the FRQS-funded Research Centre NUTRISS - Nutrition, santé et société. He has published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers on physiological, clinical, epidemiological and public health issues related to food and health. He has contributed the training of more than 70 MSc, PhD students and postdocs. He has received numerous awards, including awards from the Société québécoise de lipidologie, de nutrition et de métabolisme (Prix des Fondateurs, 2013) and the Canadian Nutrition Society (Centrum New Investigator Award, 2011 and the Khursheed Jeejeebhoy Award, 2020). He has co-written two books with the acclaimed Chef Jean Soulard on the topics of nutrition, sport and health. Benoît Lamarche is an Olympian (1984, 1988) in long track speed skating.

Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, RD, PhD


Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, RD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Faculté de pharmacie at Université Laval and researcher in the Centre NUTRISS - Nutrition, santé et société of the Institut sur la nutrition et les aliments fonctionnels (INAF). Dr. Drouin-Chartier is also a Registered Dietitian, member of the Ordre des diététistes-nutritionnistes du Québec. He obtained a MSc in nutrition and a PhD in experimental medicine from Université Laval before pursuing a postdoctoral training in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health with the support of a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. His research focuses on the prevention and management of cardiometabolic diseases with diet and medication. His work leverages clinical, epidemiological, and metabolomics approaches.