Full fat or low fat? In regards to dairy products it appears to be the question on everyone's mind. Stumble across any health blog and you will no doubt be bombarded with many contrasting opinions.
Until recently, low fat dairy was all the rage. We were told that consuming glass after glass of low fat milk would make us big and strong without the calories. Cheese, Greek yoghurt and butter were the devil and the ‘experts’ said they should be replaced with their lower fat counterparts, such as margarine.
Thank goodness that all seems to be changing. Today there appears to be less focus on 'low fat', 'low calorie' foods for health and wellbeing and more of a focus on eating real food, in a final form as close to the source as possible. Research emerging is suggesting an inverse relationship between high fat dairy consumption and obesity risk (1). This all comes under the theory that when choosing the food that we eat - nature does it best.
In order to solve the conundrum around dairy products, we can follow that same principle. How many cows do you see producing 'low fat milk' or how much freshly churned milk do you see being turned naturally into margarine? Exactly.
The new research emerging is enough to make you weep into your skinny latte. For years, we have been a 'trim anxious' population avoiding silver top milk like the plague. However studies are now suggesting the complete opposite- full fat dairy may in fact decrease your chances of obesity (2).
This particular article from The Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care recently showed a Swedish study that followed 1782 men and showed strong correlations between the consumption of full-fat dairy products and lower risk of central obesity development (2). This is further reinforced by a meta-analysis that was done of 16 relevant studies in the European Journal of nutrition and suggesting the same conclusion- if your going dairy- go high fat (1).
The speculated reasons for these findings are clear. Higher satiety and lower sugar content from the fuller fat version are all potential contributions to this pro high fat dairy revolution. Fatty acids found in milk such as trans-palmitoleic acid have shown to potentially regulate insulin levels among other important health benefits. One study in particular saw an association with high trans-palmitoleic acid levels in the blood and a lower risk of developing diabetes (3).
Finally, there are beneficial vitamins in milk that are fat-soluble and therefore when the fat is removed from the milk so are these important nutrients. An example of this is retinol (active form of vitamin A), which is particularly important for immunity and growth (3).
So next time you are out and about ordering that latte, try not to be so 'trim anxious'. Your health and waistline might just thank you for it.
1. Kratz, M., Baars, T., & Guyenet, S. (2013). The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. European Journal of Nutrition, 82, 1-24.
2. Holmberg, S., Thelin, A. (2013). High dairy fat intake related to less central obesity. Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, 31 (2), 89-94.
3. Hughes, B., Green, A.(2010). Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality in Australian adults. European Journal of Nutrition, 64, 569-577