For years, people went for diet soda and skin milk instead of regular soft drinks and whole milk. No one is going to argue that regular colas are better for people than low calorie ones, but the research keeps mounting that full-fat dairy products are not only healthier, they may be less fattening than the low-fat options. The issue, like many dietary issue todays, comes down to sugar or carbohydrates and their impact on health.
People have assumed for years that fat and calorie content are important for dieting and watching their weight. However, the data mounts, even for things like a glass of milk, that sugar and carbohydrates (which become sugar) have a big impact on blood sugar.
A new study, published in Circulation, looks at the blood work from the 3,333 adults who participated in the follow-up study covering about 15 years and the Nurses’ Health Study of Health Professionals. The research team found that study participants who had higher levels of three full-fat dairy byproducts in their bloodstream had a lower risk of getting diabetes during the study than those who consumed low-fat dairy products. The people who favored full-fat dairy had an average 46 percent lower risk of diabetes than those opting for skim or low-fat products.
Full-fat dairy items have more calories, but reducing fat content often led people to increase their sugar and carb intake. That increased their risk of diabetes.
In the study in Circulation, the researchers adjusted their results based on the role that weight played for the participants. That illustrated the connection between full-fat dairy intake and a lower diabetes risk.
A separate study, published in February in the American Journal of Nutrition, looked at the effects low-fat dairy versus full-fat dairy had on obesity. That research effort involved more than 18,000 females who participated in the Women’s Health Study. The study showed that people who consumed more high-fat dairy actually lowered their risk of being obese or overweight by 8 percent.
Some question whether milk really makes sense in a diet. It does boost protein and calcium content in a diet. However, it is high in sugar and calories. One cup of 2-percent milk contains more sugar than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. So, a lot of dairy could add pounds or inches. This is not added sugar (unless looking at chocolate milk or other enhanced products); it is naturally occurring lactose (yes, the lactose some people cannot tolerate is actually a form of sugar).
What about the growing selecting of rice, soy and almond milks in grocery stores? Many of the versions on shelves are sweetened. For example, evaporated cane juice is right after water and almonds on the ingredients for Blue Diamond Almond Juice (the 80-calorie version).
The move to alternatives echoes the move away from soft drinks for people looking to explore other perceived-to-be healthier choices. With several studies showing that full-fat is less fattening than low-fat or skim milk, and the array of almond, soy, rice and other non-dairy Options, consumer need to look at multiple things on the label. Fat content, calories, sugar and nutritional content are all important to review when choosing products.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
TIME: The Case Against Low-Fat Milk Is Stronger Than Ever
Dairy Council of California: Types of Milk
Forbes: Lowfat Milk May Not Be As Healthy As We Thought, Says Harvard Expert
Photo courtesy of Liz West’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons license