Research shows it lowers heart disease risk, reduces bone fractures, and more!
Whether you’ve read one or 100 issues of Insiders’ Cures, you know I’m a fan of full-fat dairy.
Not skim, not two percent, not low-fat—and definitely not any of the other processed, artificial “dairy” replacements.
Why? Well, to paraphrase the old advertisement: Full-fat dairy does
your body good.
In fact, a growing volume of research associates full-fat dairy with a lower risk of obesity and Type II diabetes. That’s because, when fat is removed from dairy products, the lactose (milk sugar) is absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream, creating blood sugar spikes.
But that’s not all full-fat dairy can do for you.
A new, international study determined that people who consume more dairy fat actually have a lower risk of heart disease, compared with those who consume less dairy.
And another new study demonstrates that including dairy at virtually every meal dramatically reduces the number of falls and fractures in older adults.
Let’s take a closer look…
Another reason to “heart” dairy
For the first study, researchers tracked 4,150 Swedish men and women in their 60s for more than 16 years.1
The researchers began by measuring each participant’s blood levels of a fatty acid found in dairy foods. (This is much more precise than guessing people’s dairy intake from dietary questionnaires.) The researchers then examined how many participants developed cardiovascular disease during the study period.
Ultimately, they found that the participants with higher levels of the dairy fatty acid had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease. And this was true even when the researchers took into account heart disease risk factors like diet, lifestyle, age, and presence of other diseases.
Plus, the study showed that those who ate more dairy didn’t have an increased risk of death from any cause. (The researchers noted death rates because it’s important—from an epidemiological standpoint—that the participants didn’t die from some other disease simply because they didn’t die of heart disease first.)
To see if their findings held up in other populations, the researchers examined 17 different studies involving 43,000 people in Denmark, the U.K., and the U.S. And they found the same kinds of results—the study participants with the highest levels of dairy fat in their blood samples had the lowest risks of cardiovascular disease.
The best part? NONE of the studies suggested that the participants were harmed in any way by consuming dairy foods.
Not all dairy is created equal
Notably, more and more researchers recognize the importance of distinguishing the specific types of foods classified as “dairy.” And, more specifically—between processed versus unprocessed foods (as I discuss on page 3), and how this important distinction applies to dairy.
On the one side, there’s minimally processed whole milk, plain yogurt, and full-fat cheese (all of which I wholeheartedly recommend as part of a healthy diet). On the other side there’s highly processed milk that removes natural fats, yogurt loaded with sugar, and “cheese products” packed with artificial ingredients (which I definitely don’t recommend).
The lead author of the study, Dr. Kathy Trieu, said, “Increasing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy foods may be more dependent on the type—such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter—rather than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy foods overall is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for health.”
Dr. Trieu’s insight that it’s not the natural fats in foods—it’s the artificial, low-fat, and processed dairy products that are causing health problems—certainly rings true. But it comes a little late, after decades of flawed theories and failed dietary recommendations against foods with healthy fats, including dairy, eggs, and meat.
So, allow me to reiterate the fact that organic, full-fat dairy foods, without artificial ingredients and artificial processing, are packed with key nutrients that support good health—as this study suggests. Including protein and the all-important mineral calcium (which should only ever come from your diet and not from supplements).
And that leads me to the next new study…
Breaking news about breaking falls
According to a large new clinical trial, increased intake of dairy foods such as cheese, milk, and yogurt reduced falls and fractures in older adults living in long-term care facilities.2
The researchers looked at 7,195 people with an average age of 86 years, residing in 60 long-term care facilities in Australia. The participants had adequate vitamin D levels (because they took a D supplement), but were below recommended levels of calcium and protein.
Half of the facilities were randomly selected to give residents additional cheese, milk, and yogurt to achieve daily dietary intakes of 1,142 mg of calcium and 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This is the equivalent of 3.5 servings of dairy a day (with one serving defined as a cup of milk, about three-quarters of an ounce of cheese, or half a cup of yogurt).
The other half of the facilities kept their usual menus, providing only 700 mg a day of calcium and 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (about two daily servings of dairy).
During the two-year study period, the participants had 4,302 falls. There were 324 bone fractures, including 135 hip fractures.
But the group who consumed more dairy had a 33 percent reduction in fractures of any kind, a whopping 46 reduction in hip fractures, and an 11 percent reduction in falls.
Not to mention, the researchers also noted that the reduction was similar to that found in trials using potent drugs (with dangerous side effects) designed to increase bone strength in people with osteoporosis. (Amazing!)
How much dairy do you really need?
Of course, it’s well established that foods rich in calcium and protein, such as dairy, help prevent the bone weakness that can lead to fractures. But before this study was conducted, few researchers investigated whether increasing daily intake of dairy foods is a safe and effective way of reducing fractures in older adults.
As we just learned, the answer is a resounding YES!
Dairy foods are also important for maintaining muscle mass for strength, walking (gait), standing, and even sitting, (I’ve written before about studies showing that how well you walk—your gait—is a key measure of health and longevity.)
Complete proteins (from dairy, meat, and seafood) are optimal for muscle strength. But similarly, guidelines for protein intake, especially among older people, are woefully inadequate.
For instance, the U.S. recommended dietary intake for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
But the study I just referenced found that people who consumed 0.9 grams had plenty of fractures and falls. Meanwhile, 1.1 grams seemed to be the sweet spot for fracture reduction.
Another new study showed that when older adults increase their daily protein intake to at least 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight, they have significant improvements in gait and leg strength.3
And the International Protein Board goes even higher. It recommends that older adults consume between 1.4 to 1.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.4
So, how much do you really need?
While the recommendations may vary, the message is still the same: Most Americans don’t consume enough dairy (or protein, or calcium) to keep their bones and muscles healthy—especially as they age.
One of the best ways to do so is to include a serving of full-fat, organic dairy (a cup of milk, an ounce of cheese, or half a cup of yogurt) at virtually every meal.
After all, that’s a hallmark of the Mediterranean diet, which is the healthiest diet on the planet.
Bottom line: The real science shows that to protect your metabolic, heart, and bone health—and a whole lot more—whole, unprocessed dairy foods need to be a staple on your grocery list…and on your daily menu.
1“Biomarkers of dairy fat intake, incident cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality: A cohort study, systematic review, and meta-analysis.” PLoS Med. 2021 Sep 21;18(9):e1003763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003763.
2“Effect of dietary sources of calcium and protein on hip fractures and falls in older adults in residential care: Cluster randomised controlled trial.” BMJ 2021 Oct 20; 375:n2364.
3“The cost effectiveness of personalized dietary advice to increase protein intake in older adults with lower habitual protein intake: a randomized controlled trial.” Eur J Nutr. 2021 Oct 5:1–16.