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Friday November 17, 2017

Is whole milk about to make a comeback?

For decades, government health advisors told millions to cut whole milk from their diets in favor of skim. School lunch programs followed dutifully, dumping whole milk in favor of low- and no-fat, often flavored with added sugars to increase palatability and lure kids back to drinking it.

Could it all have been a mistake?

That reality may be the conclusion of several recent studies looking at large populatons to study possible links between full-fat dairy consumption, weight and risk of disease. In a new study in the medical journal Circulation, Tufts University epidemiologist  Dariush Mozaffarian analyzed blood samples of 3,333 adults over a period of 15 years. Mozaffarian and colleagues tested the samples for three compounds that indicated full-fat dairy consumption, in order to get around the notorious problem with similar studies of simply asking people to remember what they ate and drank. When they looked at the actual indicators of fat consumption based on the blood tests, they found subjects with the higher levels of the full-fat compounds on average were 46 percent less likely to get diabetes than people with lower levels.

Why the seemingly paradoxical result occured is uncertain, he reports, although he theorizes natural trans fat in the high-fat dairy products may improve the body's ability to use insulin more efficiently in managing blood sugar.

Another new study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that diets recommending low-fat and fat-free dairy foods as well as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes in order to combat high blood pressure can can be modified to include whole milk, yogurt and cheese without sacrificing health benefits. In the randomized trial, researchers modified those meal plans, which despite their health benefits often suffer from non-compliance with consumers, by replacing fat-free and low-fat dairy foods with whole-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, in conjunction with a 12 percent reduction in simple sugars from fruit juices.

The results of the study showed blood pressure was similarly improved when participants followed the standard or the whole-fat dairy eating plan, compared with the control diet. In addition, the whole-fat dairy eating plan did not increase total cholesterol or LDL-C levels, despite a 6 percent higher saturated fat intake than the standard.

A separate study published in the American Journal of Nutrition, compared the effects of full-fat and low-fat dairy on obesity and found that among more than 18,000 women, those who consumed the most high-fat dairy products lowered their risk of being overweight or obese by 8 percent.

“I think these findings together with those from other studies do call for a change in the policy of recommending only low-fat dairy products,” Tuft's Mozaffarian told TIME magazine. “There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy.”

The good health news notwithstanding, it may be premature to predict a rush to the whole-fat section of the dairy case.

Consumption of whole milk has been on the decline for decades. Whole milk sales have fallen more than 61 percent since 1975, to a low of 14 billion pounds last year. Over that same period, 2 percent milk sales have more than doubled, while  1 percent and nonfat milk sales have increased by nearly three times. However, the whole-milk decline is part of a wider drop in fluid milk sales. On average, Americans today drink 37 percent less milk than they did 45 years ago, according to data from the USDA. While milk used to be the beverage of choice, Americans have reduced its share of the fluid market in favor of more options. And prospects for improvement aren't promising. The biggest declines in milk consumption over that time period came in the 2-year-old to 11-year-old and 12- to 19-year-old demographics.

 

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