Could full-fat dairy products help you live longer?

Close up of a dutch black and white cow in Holland

Could this be the end of the skinny latte? For anyone who has been unenthusiastically sipping watery skim milk or forcing down carboard-flavored low-fat yogurt in an attempt to follow a healthy diet, a new study may have some good news. As with the vast majority of such studies, it’s just an observational study, meaning that it can’t prove cause and effect. But the findings are still interesting.

Heart disease and stroke are two of the top villains when it comes to chronic disease and are commonly (mistakenly) linked to diets high in saturated fats. The study, led by Professor Marcia Otto of the University of Texas, found no significant correlation between dairy fats and these two diseases.

Professor Otto tells us that her team even found evidence to the contrary:

In addition to not contributing to death, the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke

An article by, who reported on the study, made the point that low-fat dairy products often also contain large amounts of added sugar, which is a much more sensible substance to avoid if you are aiming to protect yourself from chronic disease.

A third reason to choose full-fat options is that there are some essential nutrients, particularly in this case vitamins A and D, that can only be absorbed in the presence of fat. Taking out the fat from dairy products not only strips the food of many of the vitamins that it contains naturally but also makes it more difficult to absorb those vitamins that do remain in the product. Plus, in an ironic twist, low-fat dairy products may be re-fortified with the fat-soluble vitamins that have been removed with the fat. But, as nutrionist Clarissa Lenherr points out:

Even when you choose low-fat dairy products that have been fortified with these vitamins, you may not even be absorbing them, due to the fact that the product has little fat left in it

The fat in dairy products is also satiating: it keeps you fuller for longer.

Our advice? If you choose to include dairy products in your diet, skip the tasteless, nutrient-devoid low-fat products and go straight for the high-fat versions in their natural state. Pick the highest-fat yogurts and savour that creamy texture, enjoy the rich flavors of full-fat cheese and slowly sip a cup of tea that doesn’t make you feel like you are drinking the warmed-up contents of a murky pond. Both your body and your taste buds deserve it!

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