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High-Fat Dairy Also Due for a Reputation Makeover

Jun. 17, 2015|653 views
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This week I’ve been reporting on several foods that were once vilified for their alleged health risks—all of which have now been shown to actually be good for you. Eggs are not bad for your blood vessels. Ditto peanuts. Now it’s time to revisit our approach to high-fat dairy.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? The very term “high-fat dairy” is all but foreign. That’s because we’re so accustomed to seeing the term “low-fat dairy” associated with any and all advice regarding a healthful diet. Provided your are not lactose intolerant, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with—let’s call it—ordinary-fat dairy. That’s because recent research has revealed some unexpected benefits from dairy products that have not had most of their natural fats removed.

Blame it on the low-fat craze of the 1980s and ‘90s. At the time, most of us were told—loudly and repeatedly—that fat is bad. Foods naturally rich in fats, such as avocados, peanuts, and dairy, were all vilified. Countless millions of Americans switched to skim milk and low-fat dairy products, in the mistaken belief that doing so would either help them lose weight, or help prevent other illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes. Yesterday we learned that eggs are not bad for you. In fact, a diet rich in eggs may be protective against diabetes, according to Finnish researchers.

Now, say Swedish scientists, it’s safe to revisit full-fat diary products, too. That’s because they showed recently that a diet rich in full-fat dairy is also associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, higher consumption of this type of high-fat dairy—but not low-fat dairy—may reduce one’s risk of developing the blood sugar disease by more than one-fifth.

"Those who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 23 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least,” said Ulrika Ericson, who conducted the study. In contrast, people who love meat should rethink their eating habits. “High meat consumption was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of the fat content of the meat,” said Ericson.

The results were obtained by examining the dietary habits, and health, of more than 27,000 middle-aged Swedes, over the course of two decades. "When we investigated the consumption of saturated fatty acids that are slightly more common in dairy products than in meat, we observed a link with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes,” said Ericson. “Our results suggest that we should not focus solely on fat, but rather consider what foods we eat. Many foodstuffs contain different components that are harmful or beneficial to health, and it is the overall balance that is important."

Ulrika Ericson, Sophie Hellstrand, Louise Brunkwall, Christina-Alexandra Schulz, Emily Sonestedt, Peter Wallstrom, Bo Gullberg, Elisabet Wirfalt, and Marju Orho-Melander. Food sources of fat may clarify the inconsistent role of dietary fat intake for incidence of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr, April 2015 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103010

Lund University website. News and Press Releases. Available at:


Tags:  chronic illness, organic, healthy fats