Full-fat foods have been getting a bad rap for decades now. But brace yourself. There is no evidence that eating low-fat dairy is more healthy than eating whole-fat dairy, according to researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy and Professor of Nutrition.
Participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who had higher levels of dairy fatty acid concentrations from full-fat dairy products were also seen to have a 46 percent lower risk for diabetes than those with lower levels.
The study was published the journal Circulation by the American Heart Association.
While it's true that full-fat dairy products are higher in calories than low-fat products, it's a bit more complicated than that. Low-fat foods prompt people to make up for it with more carbohydrates. Risks for problems with insulin as well as for diabetes increase as carbohydrate consumption increases.
Separate research reported in the American Journal of Nutrition indicated that women from the Nurse's Study who ate the highest levels of fat in dairy products had a lower risk by 8 percent for obesity or being overweight.
When people are eating low-fat, they may find themselves seeking to feel full or to enjoy their food more by also consuming additional carbohydrates. This can also result in putting on unwanted pounds.
High fat levels in food bring about greater satiety after eating. It's speculated that this may be part of the reason for this correlation between high fat, and lower risks for overweight and diabetes.
Another theory is that dairy fats may act directly on cells, in muscle and in the liver, improving their task of breaking down sugar.
It's also theorized that microbes in some fermented high fat dairy foods may enhance insulin response, and may help decrease the risk for diabetes.
“In the absence of any evidence for the superior effects of low fat dairy, and some evidence that there may be better benefits of whole fat dairy products for diabetes, why are we recommending only low fat diary?” said Mozaffarian in a Time.com article. “We should be telling people to eat a variety of dairy and remove the recommendation about fat content.”
"In two prospective cohorts, higher plasma dairy fatty acid concentrations were associated with lower incident diabetes," according to an article by Mozaffarian and his team on the American Heart Association's April 5, 2016 issue of Circulation.
Over in Europe, similar studies about fat and nutrition have been done. Research was published in the European Journal of Nutrition concerning dairy fat. People who consumed full-fat dairy products were no more likely to have cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes than people who ate low-fat dairy products.
Dr. Mario Kratz, first author of the review and a nutrition scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle reported on these findings in an article on Time.com.
Kratz said that 18 of 25 studies reviewed by his team reported that those who ate full-fat dairy had lower body weights and gained less weight. They were at lower risk for obesity as well. The remaining seven studies were not conclusive.
“None of the research suggested low-fat dairy is better,” said Kratz.
Kratz said that it's possible that gene expression and hormone regulation are affected positively by the fatty acids in full-fat dairy. The body might burn energy more efficiently, or it might limit how much fat is stored.
“Data should be weighed more heavily than assumptions,” Kratz said. “And the data don’t support the notion that eating full-fat dairy is worse for your health than reduced-fat or non-fat dairy.”
The findings from these studies point in a new and interesting direction, where the inclusion of fats is concerned. More research is required.
Reviewed April 11, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
The Case Against Low-fat Milk Is Stronger Than Ever. Time. com. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
Circulating Biomarkers of Dairy Fat and Risk of Incident Diabetes Mellitus Among US Men and Women in Two Large Prospective Cohorts. Mohammad Y. Yakoob1; Peilin Shi; Walter C. Willett; Kathryn M. Rexrode; Hannia Campos; E. John Orav; Frank B. Hu; Dariush Mozaffarian. Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Dean's Office, 150 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02111 [email protected]
Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. AJCN.nutrition.org. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat. Time.com. Retrieved April 10, 2016.