Figs and Yogurt

Dancing Around Dairy Fat Health Effects

Nutrition gurus seem deeply engaged in a delicate dance around the health effects of dairy fat. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides some insight. Researchers examined three large cohorts of U.S. adults. They found that “dairy fat intake was not significantly related to the risk of total cardiovascular disease.”

But they dug a little deeper into their models. And there they found support for replacing the energy from dairy fat with polyunsaturated fats and whole-grain carbohydrates.

If that’s not confusing enough, they conclude with one more spin on the dial: “Whether the food matrix may modify the effect of dairy fat on health outcomes warrants further investigation.” We take that to mean that in the real world of complex dietary choices, all bets are off.

In a companion editorial, Ian Givens and Sabita Soedamah-Muthu offer caution about the limits of the evidence:

Overall, the current study confirms that dairy fat is not inherently associated with an increased risk of CVD, CHD, or stroke but highlights the importance of understanding the effect of replacing saturated (or dairy) fat with other dietary components.

A reduction in dairy products in the diet in an attempt to replace some SFAs may lead to other problems, because dairy products are key sources of other nutrients, including protein, calcium, iodine, and vitamins B-2 (riboflavin) and B-12.

In all of this, we find little reason to keep consuming many low fat and nonfat dairy products. Compare nonfat yogurt to whole milk yogurt and you’ll find a load of extra sugar to make it palatable. Low fat cheeses can also be unsatisfying, both in their flavor and their texture.

Good, whole foods in modest portions bring more pleasure and health than a whole truckload of dubious food products with a manufactured health halo.

Click here for the study and here for the commentary.

Figs and Yogurt, photograph © Alba García Aguado / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


November 16, 2016