Should you eat only low fat or no fat dairy products? The answer may surprise you.

This advice plus other advice to limit
saturated fats rapidly led to a massive shift in America to use of low and no
fat dairy products from whole fat diary. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons,
today America has an epidemic of obesity, overweight, metabolic syndrome, diabetes
and perhaps now an increasing incidence of cardiovascular disease.   

Was the dairy advice correct or not? A recent perspective
article in the J of the American Medical Association asked experts and suggests
that the answer is simply not clear. 

One observation is that Americans use
cheese primarily to create pizzas, cheeseburgers and junk foods, while
Europeans use cheese as cheese itself.

What is known about the health benefits or non-benefits is
based on observational studies which amount to associations rather than clear
cause and effect as would be found in a randomized trial where some group gets full
fat diary and the other does not. Still, observational studies at least give directions
for consideration. 

In the PURE study of 136,000+ individuals 35-70 years of
age, a higher intake of dairy fat was actually associated with lower risk of
cardiovascular events and mortality. “Whole fat dairy seemed to be more
protective than nonfat or low-fat dairy”

Another approach is to look at biomarkers, in this case by
examining the blood content of three specific fatty acids are primary derived
from dairy products. It turned out that when 16 such studies were pooled with
63,00 participants, those with higher levels of the three fatty acids were less
likely to develop diabetes during the time of the trial. 

What about weight gain? It turns out there is no clear-cut
evidence that full fat dairy is more likely to lead to weight gain than low fat
or no fat diary consumption. An expert quoted in the article noted that there
is no strong data to show that full fat diary leads to more weight, more cardiovascular
disease or more metabolic syndrome. Rather observational studies suggest just
the opposite. 

Another expert interviewed suggested that the key is not to worry
about any one ingredient in the diet but what is most important is the overall dietary
pattern. This makes good sense to me.

Rubin, R, Whole-fat or nonfat dairy? the debate continues, J Amer Med Assoc,
2018; 320:2514-2516

Some 40 years ago, the Dept of Agriculture recommended a
switch to no or low-fat milk and dairy products as part of the effort to reduce
the consumption of saturated fats.

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