Milk and dairy foods are associated with many health benefits like reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While dairy sometimes is scrutinized for containing saturated fat, the good news is emerging research supports dairy foods at all fat levels in healthy eating patterns.
For years, dietary guidance focused on limiting high-fat intake. However, medical and nutrition experts are beginning to understand that not all dietary fats are equal. Research continues to show that milk, yogurt, and cheese consumption is not associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, with some studies showing that consuming full-fat dairy can potentially reduce risk.
Backed by science
One example is from a 2018 study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, which followed over 136,000 adults across 21 countries; the study linked high consumption of dairy with reduced risk of major cardiovascular disease and stroke. Other studies, such as the study published in Obesity Reviews in 2018, show that saturated fat in dairy foods is associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Nutrition experts agree that overall diet quality matters more than single nutrient amounts. Research suggests that nutrient synergy in a food’s composition provides health benefits beyond the food’s isolated nutrients, and that a mix of whole foods eaten together from different food groups — such as dairy, vegetables, and fruits — provides greater health benefits than the sum of its parts.
Together, these findings indicate the unique structure of nutrients found in dairy foods at all fat levels — including whole-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt — are an important part of healthy eating patterns, supporting optimal health and reduced risk of chronic disease.
As dietary recommendations and eating patterns change, it is essential to consider the overall nutrient quality of foods — including dairy — and how those nutrients interact with other foods to positively impact health. Alongside Dairy Council of California, dairy farm families and milk processors can help by reaffirming the role of whole and reduced-fat dairy foods in healthy eating patterns by sharing credible scientific research within their own communities.