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Full-Fat Dairy Makes a Comeback?

Smart portions may actually do the body good.

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An ever-expanding pile of research papers is challenging the idea that we need to avoid full-fat varieties of dairy products like yogurt and milk. There may be no need to settle for fat-free versions that could be less satisfying: For instance, a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving more than 2,900 U.S. seniors aged 65 and above found that whole-fat dairy consumption appears to do little harm when it comes to cardiovascular disease.

Scientists came to this conclusion by measuring blood levels of three fatty acids found in dairy products—including trans-palmitoleic acids related to heart disease and all-cause mortality—at the beginning of the study period in 1992 and then again at years 6 and 13. Not only were none of the fats sourced from dairy significantly associated with death, but one type (heptadecanoic fatty acid) was linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease mortality.

This drives home the point that higher-fat foods like cheese need not be banished from our diets as long as we practice some degree of portion control. There are no guidelines stating that we should have no saturated fat in our diets. We just need to cap it at a certain level (the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that saturated fats account for less than 10% of total daily calories). This research should give pause to people replacing plain, whole-fat yogurt with a flavored, fat-free type—that may be loaded with added sugars—to avoid high fat content.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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