In its latest healthy intake dietary guidelines, the U.S. government recommends that Americans avoid whole fat dairy products and instead consume fat-free and low-fat (1 percent) dairy, including milk, yogurt, and cheese. A new prospective cohort study published in The Lancet suggests that the government's recommendation is bunk.
The study followed the eating habits of more than 130,000 people for more than 9 years. It found that folks who consume higher levels of whole fat dairy products actually lowered their overall mortality and cardiovascular disease risks compared to those who consumed lower amounts or none.
As the study notes, nutritionists have long recommended that people minimize their consumption of whole-fat dairy products on the ground that they are a source of saturated fats and are presumed to adversely affect blood lipids and increase cardiovascular disease and mortality. On the basis of this study, that recommendation is exactly backward: Consuming less whole fat dairy is associated with higher cardiovascular and mortality risk.
How much lower? Eurekalert reports that "among those who consumed only whole-fat dairy, higher intake (mean intake of 2.9 servings of whole fat dairy per day) was associated with lower rates of total mortality (3.3% vs 4.4%) and major cardiovascular disease (3.7% vs 5.0%), compared to those who consumed less than 0.5 servings whole-fat dairy per day."
While the results of all nutrition research should be taken with a grain of salt**, The Lancet's new study reinforces recent arguments that what passes for nutrition "science" is in desperate need of radical reform.
(* Apologies to the American Dairy Association's 1980s advertising compaign.)
(** Though the government's salt consumption recommendations are most likely bunk too.)