It’s a question that is, once again, top of mind for many in the dairy community after the release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, which recommend consumption of low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy foods.
What must be done for fuller fat dairy foods to gain approval?
“We certainly know the enjoyment of whole fat milk and dairy foods are playing out and reflected in consumer shopping trends,” said Katie Brown on the January 6 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream. “Whole milk experienced the greatest growth of any milk fat level in 2020, and that’s great reinforcement that the tide is turning in our favor on this area.” Brown is a registered dietician and senior vice president of scientific affairs and outreach with the National Dairy Council.
There is some flexibility for fuller fat dairy in this edition of the dietary guidelines. While low-fat and fat-free dairy are recommended to be consumed “most often,” the guidelines include that 10% of calories can be derived from foods with additional saturated fats.
The reason that number is relatively low, though, is because of the obesity epidemic our country faces, explained Cornell University dairy economist Andy Novakovic.
“Where the center of gravity for the scientific community still resides is that 74% of Americans carry more weight than they should,” Novakovic said. “They may not be morbidly obese, but they’re overweight, and that becomes the gorilla in the room. The science does not strongly support that eating a lot of foods high in fat will cause you to lose weight.”
Differences in fats
On that topic, there is research and education to be done to recognize the varying impacts of the many different types of saturated fats. This is an area that the dietary guidelines committee has already stated interest in for future editions of the recommendations, Brown noted.
“One of the areas they identified for future [research] activities was to examine the effects of different food sources of saturated fat and different food matrices that encompass saturated fat. They are acknowledging that not all saturated fats are the same; they have different health outcomes,” she said. “They rationalize that the variety of fatty acids in food have different effects on heart disease, for example.
“They’re calling for more of that type of research,” she continued. “That’s good news because we know we’re almost at a tipping point where we can say the preponderance of evidence continues to grow in that area, demonstrating that the dairy fat is very unique and different from other types of saturated fat.”
Helping deliver and present that research is where the National Dairy Council comes in, as they keep investing in science that supports fuller fat dairy as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“For dairy, we want to continue to build that body of evidence showing that dairy consumption of milk, cheese, and yogurt at all fat levels, especially whole fat dairy since there’s fewer studies on that to date, reduces risk for chronic disease, like heart disease,” Brown said. “That is the pathway to getting full-fat dairy in the dietary guidelines.
“We have to change the narrative on whole fat dairy foods, and that will come from the science.”
An ongoing series of events
The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, January 20 at 11 a.m. CST. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here. Registering once registers you for all future events.