Nutritionists are now starting to recommend full-fat dairy over low-fat or nonfat offerings. For years, experts have recommended low-fat dairy products over the full-fat versions.

The rationale for the recommendation was that full-fat milk products are higher in calories and contain more saturated fat.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend consuming about three servings of dairy per day, but specify that these foods should be fat-free or low-fat.

Nutritionists Have Changed Their Dairy Recommendations

Nutritionists have begun advising their clients to choose full-fat over reduced fat dairy due to a number of studies that challenge the long-standing belief that high-fat dairy caused heart disease.
Much of the recent research indicates that full-fat dairy may actually be healthier than its reputation suggests. The studies show that people who eat full-fat dairy are not more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes than people who consume low-fat dairy. In fact, they may even be less likely to gain weight.

A New Study Bolsters Nutritionists’ Advice on Full-Fat Dairy Products

Now another study, this one appearing in The Lancet, adds to that body of evidence. This new research suggests that full-fat dairy can also be part of a healthy diet. While there was stronger data for milk and yogurt consumption than butter and cheese, dairy eaters in the study consumed more full-fat than low-fat products, suggesting that these results apply particularly strongly to whole-fat dairy foods.

How the Nutrition Study was Conducted

The observational study was based on data from about 136,000 adults who took part in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which collected diet and health information from people in 21 countries on five continents.

• None of the people included in the study had a history of cardiovascular disease.

• All of them completed a detailed dietary survey, which included questions about type and frequency of dairy intake.

• Over about nine years of follow-up, roughly 10,500 people either died or had a major cardiovascular issue, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Nutrition Study Results

• Dairy consumption was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

• Compared to people who didn’t eat dairy, those who consumed more than two servings per day had lower total mortality rates (3.4% versus 5.6%).

• The dairy consumers also had lower cardiovascular mortality rates (0.9% versus 1.6%).

• The dairy eaters also had lower rates of major cardiovascular disease (3.5% versus 4.9%) and stroke (1.2% versus 2.9%).

• Among the consumers of full-fat dairy, those who consumed about three servings per day had lower mortality rates than people who ate less than 0.5 servings per day (3.3% versus 4.4%).

Analysis of Nutrition Study Results

The nutrition research suggests that eating dairy products of all kinds is associated with a lower risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Study co-author Mahshid Dehghan, a nutrition epidemiology researcher at the Population Health Research Institute in Canada, draws these conclusions:

• About three servings of dairy a day is associated with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.

• We are suggesting that dairy is healthy, and people should be encouraged to consume dairy.

• Vilifying whole-fat dairy solely because of its higher saturated fat content (even though plenty of research does link saturated fat to heart disease) may not capture the whole picture.

• Focusing on low-fat is predominantly based on the assumption that saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol. But dairy contains many other healthy components, including amino acids, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium. They can be fermented and have probiotics.

• She cautions that we should not focus on a single nutrient. The rest of the diet matters. Eating dairy is far better than loading up on refined carbohydrates.

Click here to read the full nutrition research article.