Research showing full-fat dairy products can be good for us challenges the long-held notion that they are bad because they contain saturated fat that can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease. New studies and the public’s growing interest in the nutritional value of “whole foods” appears to be spurring of whole-fat milk, yogurt and other full-fat dairy products.
These new studies reveal consumption of whole-fat dairy is decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer. The new research indicates that people who consume whole-fat dairy products are less obese.
Researchers are exploring whether the pre-biotics or probiotics of milk can lessen the risk of chronic diseases. Studies also are investigating whether milk triggers an expression of genes that produces health benefits. Whether these benefits can be traced to dairy products or to the healthy behaviors of the people who were studied is also under investigation. People who consume dairy products are more likely to eat whole grains, according to researchers. They also are more likely to lead active lives and less likely to smoke.
We already know that federal dietary leaders say our health suffers because Americans do not eat enough of four necessary nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber. Dairy products are excellent sources of the first three nutrients.
National whole milk sales last year climbed 4.5 percent over the previous year, while national fat-free milk sales fell 12.3 percent, according to dairy industry data. Greek yogurt is another full-fat product that’s seeing a boost in sales. While sales of all kinds of Greek yogurts showed a growth spurt last year over 2014, the increase for full-fat Greek yogurt was particularly impressive. Sales of full-fat Greek yogurt doubled, according to the dairy industry.
The higher fat content in whole milk and full-fat Greek yogurt may leave consumers feeling more satisfied and prone to eating less, say dietitians. The amount of protein in Greek yogurt is double that of traditional yogurt. Industry leaders trace the growing sale of higher-fat dairy products to consumers’ increasing interest in “whole foods” diets. These diets emphasizing foods that have been subjected to little or no processing are increasingly popular.
Manufacturers can replace saturated fats in dairy products with sugar as a preservative for longer shelf life as well as a flavor enhancer. Consumers may see whole milk as a healthier alternative and less processed. They know the cardiovascular benefit from reducing saturated fat is lost if sugar is added.
Whole milk, cheese and butter are foods that contain saturated fat, and federal dietary guidelines continue to recommend consumption of low- or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese. Nutritionists say fat intake should be limited to 30 percent to 35 percent of daily calories. Saturated fat should be limited to 10 percent. They recommend moderate consumption of full-fat dairy as part of the total diet.