Don’t skim the health benefits of dairy

Here’s why I consume full-fat butter, cheese, milk, or yogurt at almost every meal

Banning dairy from a healthy, balanced diet has been one of the biggest, most flawed myths of so-called nutritional science. But you should also know that when it comes to good health, all dairy is not created equal.

More and more studies are showing that the key is consuming “full-fat” dairy… that is, natural dairy products in their unaltered forms—not artificial, “low fat” varieties.

You see, when dairy products are artificially processed to remove the fat content, their perfect natural balance is upended. Pure dairy products contain a naturally calibrated combination of protein, fat, and lactose (a form of sugar). So if you take out the fat, you inevitably increase the proportion of sugar.

Plus, the fat in dairy naturally slows the release of the lactose into your bloodstream. Meaning you can get a blood sugar spike when you consume low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, or other low-fat dairy products.

And there’s plenty of evidence that this sugar rush can lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease—not to mention lactose intolerance.

So it’s no surprise that research is increasingly showing that full-fat dairy—not the low-fat versions—can actually help prevent these chronic, deadly health conditions.

Nutritional experts are calling this a “paradox” because the scientific evidence doesn’t support their mythological theories that low-fat dairy is somehow supposed to be better for your health. And they struggle with the absolute fact that the healthy Mediterranean diet includes a lot of supposedly “unhealthy” dairy (like full-fat cheeses and yogurt) at most, if not all, meals.

But the science on the benefits of consuming natural, full-fat dairy just keeps rolling in. So, let’s take a look at some of the most compelling research, including a new, multi-country study showing the impressive benefits of full-fat dairy for prevention of diabetes and high blood pressure.

How full-fat dairy helps reduce metabolic diseases

There are several large, long-term studies showing that full-fat dairy can substantially lower your risk of the following metabolic health conditions…

Cardiovascular disease. In a recent study, researchers evaluated the effects of fatty acids from dairy in 2,907 men and women with a median age of 74.1

At various points during the 22-year study period, researchers analyzed the levels of three types of dairy-related fat in each of the participants’ blood.

By the end of the study, most of the participants (2,428) had died. But only 833 died from heart disease (remember, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., particularly in older people). And the researchers discovered that the study participants who had high blood levels of dairy-related fat were less likely to die from heart disease than those with lower levels.

Furthermore, the people with high levels of one particular type of dairy fatty acid—called heptadecanoic acid—were a whopping 42 percent less likely to die from a stroke during the study period.

This is only one of the recent studies showing that, contrary to what the so-called nutrition “experts” have touted for decades, the saturated fats in dairy won’t increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, full-fat dairy can actually substantially decrease your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

Obesity. An increasing number of studies are finding that the fat in dairy does not lead to weight gain. In fact, full-fat dairy can actually help you lose weight—probably because the fat makes you feel more full, satisfied (satiated), and less likely to load up on empty calories.

In a 2016 study, researchers followed more than 18,400 women, ages 45 and older, for 18 years.2 All of the women were of normal weight at the beginning of the study, but at the end, nearly half were overweight or obese.

The study specifically analyzed how much—and what type—of dairy the participants consumed. And guess what? The researchers found that the women who consumed the most full-fat dairy products had an 8 percent lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. However, the same was not true for the women who ate low-fat dairy—no matter how much.

Meaning, if you can consume low-fat dairy until the cows come home, it won’t keep you from gaining weight—despite what those mainstream marketing ads may have you believe. Only full-fat dairy truly guards against obesity—which, as we all know, is a precursor for many metabolic diseases.

Which leads me to the new study I told you about earlier…

Full-fat dairy reduces your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure

Researchers analyzed the dairy intake of nearly 150,000 people, ages 35 to 70, who participated in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study from 21 countries around the world.3

For nine years, the researchers looked at how much cheese, milk, and yogurt, as well as dishes and drinks prepared with dairy products, each participant ate. Dairy consumption was classified as full-fat (3.4 percent fat), or low-fat (1 to 2 percent).

Butter and cream consumption was assessed separately, as they’re not commonly eaten in many of the countries included in the PURE study. (I remember hosting a dinner for a group of researchers from China in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1987. Butter dishes were placed on the table. Some of the Chinese researchers hadn’t seen butter before and asked one of their colleagues, who had trained in the U.S., what it was. I later asked him to translate what he had responded in Chinese. He said he called it “animal secretion.”)

At the end of the study, the researchers reported that the participants who ate at least two servings of full-fat dairy a day had a 28 percent lower risk of metabolic syndrome (which includes obesity and/or high blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, or cholesterol).

But the people who only ate low-fat dairy were just as likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as the people who ate no dairy at all.

Plus, the study participants who ate two servings of full-fat dairy a day had an 11 to 12 percent lower risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, specifically. And those who ate three servings of full-fat dairy a day had a 13 to 14 percent lower risk.

Now, the study didn’t separate out how different types of dairy influenced these results, but the researchers noted that the associations were stronger for full-fat dairy consumption when compared to low-fat versions.

Why grass-fed, organic, free-range dairy is also important

One thing that these large, ongoing studies typically don’t include is a differentiation between conventional and organic, grass-fed, free-range dairy sources. But those distinctions are of utmost importance, too!

Indeed, grass-fed, organic, free-range dairy is far better for you than dairy from poor, un-contented cows in industrial dairy production. There’s plenty of science showing that the former contains more nutrients—particularly essential fatty acids, beta-carotene (as I discuss on page 3), and vitamin E. So I think it’s a fair assumption that if these studies had used the healthiest, full-fat dairy sources available, they would have found even more compelling results!

Still, the results we already have are certainly convincing. Perhaps they’re even enough to change the minds of some misguided “nutritionists” who insist on touting the fake benefits of low-fat, artificial dairy sources.

But you don’t have to wait for that. You can protect your health—starting today—with two to three servings of full-fat dairy per day. That’s just a cup of milk or yogurt, three to four tablespoons of butter, or an ounce or two of cheese, per serving.

You’ll lower your risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, and you’ll also get a healthy dose of protein, vitamin D, and bioavailable calcium.

Sources:

1“Serial measures of circulating biomarkers of dairy fat and total and cause-specific mortality in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 108, Issue 3, September 2018, Pages 476–48.

2“Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 4, April 2016, Pages 979–988

3“Association of dairy consumption with metabolic syndrome, hypertension and diabetes in 147 812 individuals from 21 countries.” BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 2020; 8 (1): e000826.


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