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The effects of changing dairy intake on trans and saturated fatty acid levels- results from a randomized controlled study

Jocelyne R Benatar12* and Ralph AH Stewart1

Author Affiliations

1 Green Lane Cardiovascular Service, Auckland City Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand

2 Cardiovascular Research Unit, Greenlane Cardiovascular Service, Auckland City Hospital, Auckland 1030, New Zealand

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Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:32  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-32

Published: 3 April 2014



Dairy food is an important natural source of saturated and trans fatty acids in the human diet. This study evaluates the effect of dietary advice to change dairy food intake on plasma fatty acid levels known to be present in milk in healthy volunteers.


Twenty one samples of whole fat dairy milk were analyzed for fatty acids levels. Changes in levels of plasma phospholipid levels were evaluated in 180 healthy volunteers randomized to increase, not change or reduce dairy intake for one month. Fatty acids were measured by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and levels are normalized to d-4 alanine.


The long chain fatty acids palmitic (13.4%), stearic (16.7%) and myristic (18.9%) acid were most common saturated fats in milk. Four trans fatty acids constituted 3.7% of the total milk fat content. Increased dairy food intake by 3.0 (± 1.2) serves/ day for 1 month was associated with small increases in plasma levels of myristic (+0.05, 95% confidence level-0.08 to 0.13, p = 0.07), pentadecanoic (+0.014, 95% confidence level -0.016 to 0.048, p = 0.02) and margaric acid (+0.02, -0.03 to 0.05, p = 0.03). There was no significant change in plasma levels of 4 saturated, 4 trans and 10 unsaturated fatty acids. Decreasing dairy food intake by 2.5 (± 1.2) serves per day was not associated with change in levels of any plasma fatty acid levels.


Dietary advice to change dairy food has a minor effect on plasma fatty acid levels.

Trial registration


Trans fatty acids; Saturated fatty acids; Dairy food; Vaccenic acid; Palmitelaidic acid; Randomized controlled study