Separate studies on the influence of two disparate substances—antidepressants and milk—on the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) show that the former may increase CVD risk, but the latter may lower it.

In an online report for the European Heart Journal, a group led by University College London’s Dr. Mark Hamer explains that the association between antidepressant use and CVD remains controversial. The team conducted a prospective cohort study of 14,784 adults enrolled in the Scottish Health Surveys. None of the subjects had a known history of heart disease, and 4.9% reported using antidepressants.

Over the course of eight years, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were linked with a 35% heightened risk of CVD incidents (CVD death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, coronary surgical procedures, stroke, and heart failure) after adjustments were made for a range of covariates. A nonsignificant association between TCA use and coronary heart disease (CHD) was also noted.

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At the other end of the heart-risk spectrum, drinking three glasses of milk per day may cut a person’s chances of developing CVD by as much as 18%, according to an analysis of 17 prospective cohort studies conducted in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

In research supported by a grant from the Dutch Dairy Association, investigators examined the relationships between milk, total dairy products, and high- and low-fat dairy intakes and CHD, stroke, and total mortality risks. The studies involved 2,283 cases of CVD; 4,391 cases of CHD; 15,554 cases of stroke; and 23,949 mortalities.

Milk intake was not associated with CHD risk, stroke, or total mortality, but a modest inverse association existed between milk intake and risk of overall CVD. “However, these findings are based on limited numbers,” caution the investigators (Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93:158-171).