Another Study Supports the Health Benefits of Whole-Fat Dairy Products

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
July 18, 2020

dairy products

Experts have spent decades warning Americans to limit their intake of whole-fat dairy products. However, over the last few years, a few studies have turned the tables on this advice, suggesting full-fat dairy products are heart healthy. And now, a new study has found that eating at least two daily servings of dairy can help lower your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (a set of risk factors that raise your risk for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease), according to a study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes & Care.  

Most of the previously published dairy studies used participants residing in North American or Europe. In this study, researchers tracked 190,000 participants between 35 and 70 years old from countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Malaysia, Palestine, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, South America, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe for nine years. 

During this time, 5,351 participants developed diabetes, 13,640 acquired high blood pressure and 46,667 had metabolic syndrome. Researchers believe that participants with a lower intake of full-fat dairy products had a higher risk for these conditions.

Researchers collected data on participants’ medical history, prescription medicine history, educational level, smoking status, height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides. They also assessed participants’ dietary intake over the previous 12 months using their Food Frequency Questionnaires. Milk, yogurt, yogurt drinks, cheese and dishes prepared with dairy products were categorized as dairy foods and classified as either low fat (one or two percent) or full fat. Since butter and cream are not common to many of these nations’ cuisines, they were assessed separately. 

Researchers found the average daily dairy consumption was a little over six ounces, slightly smaller than a baseball, with full-fat dairy products accounting for twice the amount of low-fat dairy products. Consuming at least two servings of full-fat dairy products every day was linked with lowering the risk of diabetes by 12 percent, high blood pressure also by about 12 percent and metabolic syndrome by 24 percent. Three servings per day was associated with lowering the risk for both diabetes and high blood pressure by almost 14 percent.   

“Observational studies, like this one, don’t show a cause and effect. However, they provide direction for researchers,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “For instance, this study is one of a handful that suggest full-fat dairy products may be healthier than low-fat, which contradicts experts’ advice.”

Fatty acids contained in whole-fat diary foods could be the reason they’re are valuable. But it also could be the way low-fat dairy foods are processed.   

“Fat, sugar and salt makes food taste great. However, food manufacturers often strip one of them out of food to make it heart healthy,” says Kaminetsky. “When you remove one, you have to add more of another to maintain flavor. In the case of dairy, when you remove fat, you need to add sugar.”  

Over the last few years, excessive sugar has been recognized as a possible cause of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases because it affects how fat is metabolized in the liver, ultimately damaging the heart, brain and kidneys.

“Keep in mind the American Heart Association recommends low-fat and fat-free dairy products, so before swapping your low-fat milk for whole milk, talk your doctor,” Kaminetsky says.

If you don’t have a doctor, consider joining an MDVIP-affiliated practice. MDVIP-affiliated physicians have the time and resources to help you focus on personal wellness goals such as lowering your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

Similar Posts
Can Eating Too Much Dietary Fat Make Me Fat? / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / May 2, 2018
Rethink Your Dairy-Free Diet: Health Benefits of Whole-Fat Dairy Products / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / May 16, 2019

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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