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Is low-fat dairy really healthier? Results of research might suprise you

Is low-fat dairy really healthier? Results of research might suprise you What kind of dairy products are healthier - low-fat or full-fat (photo: Freepik)

Low-fat milk has gained a reputation as a healthy and beneficial food. For decades, experts claimed that the less fat in products, the better it is for the body, but recent research has cast doubt on these conclusions, writes The New York Times.

Is low-fat milk really healthier?

The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization recommend choosing low-fat dairy products.

"This recommendation stems from the idea that full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fats, so choosing lower-fat versions can reduce your risk of heart disease," Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Tufts University.

This recommendation emerged as early as 1980, and since then, most studies on the impact of dairy fat on health have failed to identify any advantages of consuming low-fat dairy products.

What the research suggests

In studies that surveyed people about their diets and then tracked their health over many years, doctors found a connection between the consumption of dairy products and a reduced risk of certain diseases, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

"Such benefits were often present regardless of whether people chose reduced-fat or full-fat yogurt, cheese or milk. And though full-fat dairy products are higher in calories, studies have found that those who consume them aren’t more likely to gain weight.," explains Dr. Mozaffarian.

In a study published in 2018, researchers observed 136,000 adults from 21 countries for 9 years. They found that those who consumed two or more servings of dairy products per day had a 22% lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and a 17% lower likelihood of death than those who did not consume any dairy products at all.

It is noteworthy that those who consumed a higher amount of saturated fats from dairy products did not have a higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases or facing death.

In another study published in 2018, researchers combined the results of 16 studies involving over 63,000 adults. They found that, on average, over 9 years, those with higher levels of dairy fat in their blood had a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with lower levels.

"This finding suggests that there may be a benefit to consuming dairy fat rather than avoiding it," adds the cardiologist.

He notes, however, that these studies cannot prove that dairy products themselves reduce specific disease risks. Long-term clinical trials are needed for that, and such trials have not been conducted.

"But shorter-term trials have shown that consuming dairy products, including full-fat dairy, lowered the blood pressure of participants and did not increase weight or raise levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol” - again suggesting that dairy fat is not harmful to heart health.," says the doctor.

What benefits can you get from dairy?

Yogurt and cheese can provide beneficial bacteria to your gut. They also contain other beneficial molecules formed during fermentation, including vitamin K, which is linked to heart health.

Harder cheeses like cheddar and parmesan lead to a more gradual absorption of fats into the bloodstream than fermented cheeses and butter, which can help you feel full longer.

Additionally, lactic acid can lower the level of "bad" cholesterol in the body and improve digestion.

Doctors recommend including one to two servings of yogurt and cheese per day. It's advisable to avoid products with added sugar.

It's also worth choosing regular dairy products rather than low-fat ones because when natural fats are removed, some vitamins like A and D are lost.

Instead of butter, using oils such as olive, rapeseed, or soybean is recommended, as butter and cream raise blood cholesterol levels more than other sources of dairy fat.

However, medical professionals emphasize that if you have high cholesterol levels, it's essential to discuss your choice of dairy products with your doctor.

Earlier, we wrote about four popular products that can harm your bones and products that boost your immunity better than supplements.