The bad press surrounding saturated fat has mostly harmed the reputation and enjoyment of milk and milk products, since the early 1970s.
However, the evidence for branding saturated fat in dairy foods as “bad”, was never too strong to begin with. A lot of recent research has added to our knowledge in the area. A new study adds to the evidence that the saturated fat found in dairy products may not be detrimental to health, and may even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This study, called the PURE study, (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological study), looked at 136,384 people from 21 different countries in five continents, between ages of 35 and 70 years. These participants were followed up for a period of 9 years. Their daily intake of milk and dairy products was recorded during this time.
Interestingly, consumption of more than two servings of dairy foods compared to no intake each day was linked with a lower risk of death or a major cardiovascular event such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. In the study one serving of dairy was equal to oneglass of milk or yoghurt or a teaspoon of butter or a slice of cheese.
The findings also support other evidence that there is not a simple relationship between consuming full fat dairy foods and risk of heart disease. It highlights the importance of giving up on the traditional reductionist and single nutrient approach to making associations between foods and health. We consume foods and not nutrients, and our health goes beyond nutrients.
So, what to do about milk and dairy? Consider the eating competence perspective, and think in terms of food seeking, not food avoidance.
- Use lower fat milk and dairy products only if everyone in the family enjoys them.
- Plan family-friendly meals with foods you enjoy from all the food groups (meat or other protein; a couple of starchy foods; fruit or vegetable or both; and milk and dairy foods you prefer!).