The Skinny on Whole-Fat Dairy: Should You Drink It?

Whole-fat dairy has many health benefits, so why are people still avoiding it?

Walk through the dairy aisle of a typical grocery store, and you'll see dozens of products with low-fat or no-fat labels.

When the shelves are full of low-fat yogurt or fat-free sour cream, sometimes it's hard to find the whole-fat items. Although you may have heard that eating whole-fat dairy is not healthy, a new study published in the Lancet disputes this claim.

Yogurt

Whole-Fat Dairy's Health Benefits

The study in the Lancet looked at the association between dairy intake and cardiovascular disease in 31 countries. It included more than 100,000 people across five continents and focused on whole-fat and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Researchers found that eating whole-fat dairy was associated with a "lower risk of mortality" and cardiovascular disease. For example, consuming whole-fat dairy was associated with a 34% lower risk of stroke.

This isn't the only study that reveals the benefits of eating whole-fat dairy. A study in Circulation, which spanned 15 years, found that people who ate full-fat dairy were 46% less likely to have diabetes than study participants who ate low-fat dairy products.

Researchers have shown that, contrary to popular belief, eating full-fat dairy is better for you. It may lower the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems. In addition, whole-fat dairy reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

Cheese

Weight Loss and Whole-Fat Dairy

If you're on a diet or trying to lose weight, you've probably heard that avoiding whole-fat dairy is important. Concerned friends may have convinced you that eating low-fat or fat-free products will help you lose pounds. However, their advice may be misguided.

Several studies have shown that eating whole-fat dairy is associated with a lower risk of obesity and weight gain. It's not clear why full-fat yogurt or milk is better for you, but there are several possibilities. One reason may be the substances in whole-fat products are affecting your metabolism and helping people feel full faster, so they're less likely to binge on other high-calorie foods.

Ice cream

Why the Confusion Started

If whole-fat dairy is good for you, why is everyone afraid to eat it? To understand this phenomenon, you have to travel back to the 1970s. Research during the 1970s found that eating too much saturated fat could cause heart disease, and whole-fat dairy has a lot of saturated fat. In addition, studies found that saturated fat could raise LDL or the "bad" cholesterol. The dietary guidelines at that time recommended reducing saturated fat to 10% of total energy intake. During the following years, low-fat or fat-free dairy products became popular.

Today, new research has shown that eating whole-fat dairy is safe for most people. Not only can it reduce cardiovascular diseases, but it also tastes a lot better. So you can stop complaining about the bland fat-free yogurt that everyone hates and switch to the whole-fat version without feeling guilty.