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Full-fat dairy can be good for your heartFull-fat dairy can be good for your heart

A study shows that people who eat dairy products have lower rates of cardiovascular disease than those who avoid them.

September 13, 2018

3 Min Read
HEALTHY OPTIONS: Full-fat dairy products, including whole milk, cheese and yogurt, can be a healthier option since many low-fat yogurts and ice cream have more added sugar, nutrition experts say.nevodka/Getty Images

For decades, consumers have been told they should eat less fat. High-fat foods are the enemy — eat a low-fat diet. This advice included dairy products. Drink 2% or 1% milk or, better yet, if you are trying to lose weight, drink skim milk, nutrition experts advised.

Not anymore.

Global study
A new study has found that consuming full-fat dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt could benefit the heart. Imagine that! People who consume dairy products have lower rates of cardiovascular disease than those who avoid them, according to the global study.

Published in The Lancet, researchers examined food intake by more than 130,000 people around the world in the most extensive study of its kind. They concluded that eating three servings of dairy products a day was associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and death, compared with lower levels of dairy product consumption. In addition, the study found that people who consumed three servings of whole-fat dairy per day had lower rates of mortality and cardiovascular disease than those who consumed less than half a serving. The researchers considered one standard serving of dairy to be equivalent to a glass of milk, a cup of yogurt, one slice of cheese or a teaspoon of butter.

Current international healthy eating guidelines suggest that people should eat between two and four portions of fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as skim milk each day and limit whole-fat dairy intake to prevent heart disease.

Even though there are more calories, that fat is very satisfying; it keeps people full longer and they tend to not eat as much during the day. Studies also show that the fat can slow down the body’s absorption of sugar, helping lower the risk of diabetes.

This isn’t the first study to sing the praises of consuming full-fat dairy products.

Research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology analyzed 29 previous studies on the health impact of eating low-fat and full-fat dairy products, involving almost 1 million people from around the world. It found that consuming milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products — either low-fat or full-fat — had no impact on rates of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease or deaths from any cause.

As more people welcome full-fat dairy back into their diets, full-fat yogurts are popping up on store shelves. They can be a healthier option since many low-fat yogurts have more added sugar to enhance the taste, experts say.

Too much sugar
Currently, three out of four Americans eat too much added sugar, with 90% of it coming from ultraprocessed food such as like ice cream. And while nutrition experts aren’t promoting ice cream as a health food (everything in moderation), it’s worth noting that full-fat tubs of ice cream tend to contain less sugar than their low-fat counterparts. Why? When food manufacturers remove fat from foods, such as dairy fat from ice cream, they add sugar to improve the taste. Again, full-fat dairy is a win-win.

While it’s clear the nutrition experts are not advocating that you down a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream every night, or even every other night, they are saying full-fat dairy products can be a part of a healthy diet, and eating full-fat dairy products in moderation — three servings per day — can be good for your heart.

If more people catch on to the benefits of eating full-fat dairy products, full-fat dairy products could be good for dairy farmers’ bottom lines. Pass it on!

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