Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Is Dairy Fat Harmful?

The Study
There has been some question lately as to whether dairy should be consumed in its full fat form or the currently recommended low fat/fat free versions. A very well designed study was recently published that attempts to answer this question using 3 of Harvard University’s most well known cohort studies. 

This was a massive study including 43,652 men from the Health Professional Follow-up Study, 87,907 women from the Nurses Health Study and 90,675 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort. Subjects had their dairy fat consumption measured repeatedly and were followed for over 20 years for incidence of cardiovascular disease (which includes both heart disease and stroke). When dairy fat was compared to a similar amount of carbohydrate (not including fruits and vegetables) there was no difference in risk of cardiovascular disease. However, replacing 5% of energy from dairy fat with:

-polyunsaturated fat resulted in a 24% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
-vegetable fat resulted in a 10% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
-whole grains resulted in a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016; 104:1209-17.

Take Home Message
This study is another example of the chasm between well designed nutrition research and popular, internet based fad diet nutrition recommendations. The research literature has consistently shown that high saturated fat consumption is associated with higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Dairy fat is no exception. Low fat/fat free dairy is the way to go. Get your fat from healthy vegetable sources, such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and nut butters.

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