The U.S. Dietary guidelines recommend consumption of low-fat over full-fat dairy products. The findings of two new studies, however, suggest that consuming full-fat dairy such as whole milk may not be that bad at all.
In the first study published in the journal Circulation, researchers have found that intake of full-fat dairy products was linked to reduced risk for developing diabetes, which affects 422 million adults worldwide.
Researchers found that the participants from the Nurses' Health and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who had the highest levels of dairy fat in their blood had up to 46 percent lower risk of developing diabetes in a span of 15 years compared with those who had the lowest levels of dairy fats in their blood.
Although the researchers do not have a clear idea how whole fat can help reduce risk for diabetes, one theory is that dairy fats may improve the body's sensitivity to insulin.
Dairy fats may also help improve the ability of the liver and muscles to break down sugar from food. It is likewise possible that in some high fat dairy foods such as cheese, microbes may improve the body's response to insulin.
In the second study published in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at the effects of consuming full-fat and low-fat dairy on obesity risk of women who participated in the Women's Health Study. They found that those who consumed the most high-fat dairy products had an 8 percent reduced risk of being overweight or obese.
"We saw less weight gain for higher total dairy and high-fat dairy intake and also a lower risk of becoming overweight and obese in those who consumed more high-fat dairy," said study author Susanne Rautiainen, from Harvard Medical School in Boston.
High-fat dairy products contain more calories, so how come they seem to reduce risk for weight problems? People who eat high fat dairy tend to have enough calories, so they do not feel hungry to crave for more and end up consuming less calories overall.
Dairy products also contain components that help curb the body's odds to gain weight.
"Dairy products contain several components that may contribute to less weight gain and lower risk of becoming overweight or obese, including proteins, vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus," the researchers wrote. "Calcium has been suggested to play a key role in energy metabolism by forming insoluble soaps or binding bile acids."
Despite the results, health experts do not recommend people tossing out their low-fat dairy food just yet as more studies are still needed to establish the beneficial effects of full-fat dairy products.