Is Full-fat Dairy Healthy?

For decades we were told that low-fat diets were healthier than low-carb diets. Now, popular opinion is shifting as more and more science suggests that carbohydrates are unhealthy and that fats are more demonized than they deserve to be. This is especially true in the case of dairy products where science has been shedding light on the facts about dairy fat.

The studies have piled up, including one in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that looked at dairy fat and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in older adults. The researchers wrote. “Controversy has emerged about the benefits compared with harms of dairy fat, including concerns over long-term effects. Previous observational studies have assessed self-reported estimates of consumption or a single biomarker measurement at baseline, which may lead to incorrect estimations of real risk. Wanting to be more thorough, they used 2,907 study participants over the age of 65 and free of CVD. The researchers assessed their health over 22 years to find that dairy fat was not linked to mortality rates or heart disease.

Additionally, a Harvard study of more than 18,000 middle-age women found that a diet higher in full-fat dairy, but not the consumption of low-fat dairy, was linked to a lower risk of weight gain throughout the 11-year observation period. “Whole-fat dairy contains various types of fat and some are less problematic than others,” says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston Univ.

Dairy is a complex food. Just like the fiber of fruit, the complexity of dairy’s “food matrix” may negate the saturated fat. For instance, yogurts made from whole milk yogurts usually have less sugar and contain more protein than non-fat versions. Protein and fat satiate an appetite for longer than simple carbs can. This can, in turn, cut down the amount an individual eats later. And, fat is needed to help our bodies absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.

Of course, this in no way endorses eating a plate of fried mozzarella sticks every day, or indeed suggest you fry anything at all. It’s just that you might want to start eating whole milk yogurt or adding whole milk in your coffee! Speak to your health care provider today and learn how these discoveries may aid your overall health.

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