Whole milk consumption is associated with lower risk of coronary artery calcification progression: evidences from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis



Coronary artery calcification (CAC) progression is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity and mortality. However, the association between whole milk and CAC progression remains unknown. Recent studies highlighted beneficial effects of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) from whole milk on CVD. In this study, we attempted to investigate the relationship between whole milk consumption and CAC progression, and the potential effect of SCFA in it.


We analyzed a population-based cohort with 5273 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who completed a dietary questionnaire at baseline. CAC was measured at baseline and subsequent follow-up examinations by multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) scans with Agatston scores. CAC progression was defined as increased CAC scores in the follow-up from the baseline exam.


Participants consuming whole milk exhibited lower baseline CAC and CAC progression than those who never/rarely consumed whole milk (P < 0.001 and P = 0.010, respectively). Moreover, multivariable logistic regression analysis demonstrated that whole milk intake was independently associated with lower CAC progression (OR 0.765; 95% CI 0.600–0.977; P = 0.032), especially in males, participants with age ≤ 64 years and with body mass index (BMI) ≤ 25 kg/m2. Mediation analysis further showed that caproic acid, one kind of SCFA, partly mediated protective effects of whole milk on CAC progression.


Self-reported whole milk consumption was inversely associated with CAC progression in community-dwelling participants, especially in those at relatively low cardiovascular risks. The beneficial effect was partially mediated by SCFA. Therefore, whole milk can be incorporated into part of a cardio-protective diet. Regarding this, future studies may target SCFA to provide insight into more mechanistic views.

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The authors, hereby, thank all the investigators, staffs and MESA participants for their contribution to promote research in vascular disease. We are grateful to National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for cooperating with us to use datasets of the MESA examinations. This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China [81870506, 81670676 and 81422011], Project of traditional Chinese medicine in Guangdong province [20201062], Basic Research Project of Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Committee [JCYJ20180306174648342 and JCYJ20190808102005602], Shenzhen futian district public health research project [FTWS2019003]

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Research idea and study design: SG, WH, and HH. Data acquisition: SG, JG, and HH. Data analyses/interpretation: SG, WH, and JG. Manuscript writing and review: SG, WH, JG, DL, JC, and HH. Final manuscript was read and approved by all the authors.

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Correspondence to Jie Chen or Hui Huang.

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Ghosh, S., He, W., Gao, J. et al. Whole milk consumption is associated with lower risk of coronary artery calcification progression: evidences from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Eur J Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02301-5

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  • Coronary artery calcification
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Whole milk
  • Short chain fatty acids