Fact or Fiction: The Skinny on Dairy Fat

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve likely seen reports on the benefits of full fat dairy products in your diet. Recently, a scientific study was published associating higher fat dairy products with lowered incidence of diabetes. The short-short version: if you drink whole milk and eat whole fat cheese and yogurt, you have less chance of getting diabetes.

So is it true? Well, maybe.  Certainly a case can be made that if you eat foods with more fat content in them, you will feel fuller longer than if you removed the fat. Plus, it’s tastier, and savoring your meal is another key to eating less overall, which combined with feeling fuller could impact your weight. Additionally, if that tasty meal satisfied your belly, that may affect choices for the rest of the day as well. If you’re not hungry in between meals, no reason to chomp on all of those tempting snack foods, usually high in sugar, salt and saturated fat and could lead to weight gain and increased blood pressure and blood sugar concerns.

The jury is still out on whether or not the specific properties of fat in dairy products can help lower your risk for diabetes. This particular study tells us more research needs to be done on the idea. However there is a great number of studies that associate the intake of dairy in general to a variety of health benefits including reduced risk for Type 2 Diabetes, reduced risk for Cardiovascular Disease and lowering blood pressure. All great outcomes from simply enjoying 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day. While much of the research has been done specifically with lower fat versions over the last 40 years, there’s little doubt to the importance of the nutrition all dairy products provide.

So should you switch to whole milk? Full fat cheese? Let go of 0% fat yogurt? That’s a personal discussion with your family physician and Registered Dietitian. The abundance of science published still discusses low fat versions of dairy because it lowers overall saturated fat and calories which is thought to lead to obesity and high cholesterol. But the other foods you choose to eat every day impact those numbers as well. Switching to full fat varieties of dairy may be just what you need to enjoy your meal  and make healthier food choices overall. It’s important to look at meal habits and medical history as two parts of the big picture that lead to a healthier life. Personally, I don’t know that I could give up my beloved skim milk. But a creamy, full fat, strawberry yogurt sure does sound good about now.