Should you ditch skim milk for whole?

February 18, 2014

As a health-conscious dancer, your weekly grocery list likely includes go-to foods like low-fat yogurt and skim milk. But two new studies suggest that you may want to think twice before putting those items in your cart. Instead, consider reaching for full-fat versions of dairy products like milk, yogurt, butter and cream. It may seem contradictory, but recent research provides evidence for what’s being called the “full-fat paradox.” That is, people who eat more dairy fat are actually 
more likely
 to stay slimmer than those who eat less dairy fat.


One study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care looked at the relationship between central obesity, or belly fat, and dairy fat consumption in over 1,500 adult men in a 12-year period. Surprisingly, men whose diets included low-fat milk, no butter and little to no whipped cream had a higher risk of developing a bulging belly. The group who ate more butter and whipped cream and drank high-fat milk had a lower risk of central obesity.


Another study, in the 
European Journal of Nutrition
, examined 16 previous studies about high-fat dairy foods, obesity and cardiometabolic disease. Researchers found no conclusive evidence that eating dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods puts you at a higher risk for obesity or cardiometabolic disease. In fact, they believe that high-fat dairy products may help a person reduce their risk of becoming overweight. Though the paradox is puzzling, the suggestions are promising—and tasty.


So how does the fat help you stay lean? Researchers are still determining the exact reasons. It’s possible that because high-fat dairy foods make you feel fuller sooner, you’re likely to eat less. Another possibility could be that bioactive substances in milk fat might change your metabolism, burning fat for energy instead of storing it up.


While only further research can determine how and why whole-fat dairy products play a role in regulating weight, this sure is promising food for thought before your next trip to the dairy aisle.