Ask your chiropractor: is full fat dairy actually good for you?

Low fat and nonfat milk have been staples of anyone trying to lose weight since the 1940s. Schools offer nonfat or 1% milk, with 2% for those who feel like living dangerously. Conventional wisdom held that the saturated fat in full fat dairy products necessarily led to cardiovascular problems and high cholesterol.

The thinking went something like this: since dairy fat is high is cholesterol and saturated fat, it must lead to high cholesterol. Since high cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke, eating a lot of dairy fat can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Now, researchers are looking into whether that is really true. In two recent studies, researchers actually found that eating full fat dairy foods actually contributed to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. One study in Sweden found that in the group of middle aged men that were studied, full fat dairy consumption correlated with a lower risk of obesity than low fat dairy consumption. The differences were significant.

In the other study, researchers found that a diet that included full fat dairy did not correlate to higher rates of cardiovascular death, and in fact decreased the risk of dying from a stroke.

There is no clear scientific answer yet to why this should be. It is possible that high numbers of  circulating fatty acids found in full fat dairy products offer a protective benefit, as well as a perfectly balanced source of fat, protein, and sugar and a host of other nutrients. The fat in dairy products may also make it easier for your body to absorb and utilize those other vitamins and minerals.

Higher fat content may also lead more quickly to satiety, the feeling of being full and satisfied, which may lead people to eat less over all. Full fat dairy is nutrient dense food. When you strip the fat out of the milk, often it is replaced with sugar (see almost all commercial yogurts), and excess sugar in the diet is correlated with higher risk for obesity, among a host of other problems. A key thing to remember is that replacing a saturated fat with plant based fat is a good substitute but replacing a saturated fat with a simple carbohydrate is not.

Researchers are quick to point out that this is not an encouragement to start eating ice cream for breakfast (again, extra sugar). If you have high cholesterol levels, it may be beneficial to stick with plant based fats like high quality olive oil and avocados and keep your full fat dairy to a smaller portion of your daily calories. It is important to remember that portion sizes are still sensible things to consider, and not to take these findings as a license to overeat full fat dairy in an attempt to increase those protective benefits. However, as a healthy part of a balanced diet, full fat dairy may be back on the table.

Ask your chiropractor about including full fat sources of dairy in your diet as part of a whole-life, natural way to nourish your body and provide it with fuel for healthy weight loss and maintenance.

Emily ElmoreComment