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The VPR Table: Wary of Dairy?

02/25/11 5:55PM
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Courtesy Paul Moody via Flickr
Got (whole) milk?

The VPR Table

In the land of Ben & Jerry's, you'd think Vermont would be on the cutting edge of dairy. Still, folks seem wary about whole fat milk products.  How good is milk for your body?

We'll look at dairy when it reduces heart disease.

Tune in Friday evening and Saturday morning when Rowan Jacobsen debunks nutritional misinformation that's remained in our popular culture for decades.


Don't Be Wary of Dairy

The other day I watched a friend who was concerned about his cholesterol levels choose to eat skim milk, low-fat cheese, and a butter substitute. I was shocked. Even in a dairy state like Vermont, could perfectly intelligent people be clinging to nutritional misinformation that's thirty years out of date? Apparently so. Which means that it's time to set the record straight.

Full-fat dairy is very good for you. Whole milk, unctuous cheese, cream, even butter. Major study after major study has proven this. One recent paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who ate the most full-fat dairy products had a whopping 69 percent lower rate of cardiovascular death compared to those who ate the fewest. Another study found that men who ate at least five tablespoons a day of butter had a lower risk of heart attack than those who ate none. Those who ate five or more tablespoons of margarine per day had a much higher one.

How could this be? Isn't dairy full of saturated fat? Yes, it is, but saturated fat stands unjustly accused. Decades ago, nutritionists noticed that people who ate a traditional western diet had higher rates of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. Because the western diet was high in saturated fat, they theorized that saturated fat must be the villain. They were wrong. It turned out that sugar and processed seed oils-the Criscos of the world-were responsible. But by then it was too late. Once the media and the public believes something, it's very difficult to get them to change.

Experts are trying. Here's a recent comment by a top doctor at the Harvard School of Public Health: "The proportion of total energy from fat appears largely unrelated to risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, or obesity. Saturated fat has little relation to heart disease." In other words, fat doesn't make you fat, and it doesn't make you sick. This is not some wacky New Age doctor, folks; this is Harvard talking. Their latest research shows that the single best thing you can do to prevent diabetes is to eat whole dairy products. Which should be no hardship for us. Vermont is filled with some of the most delightful milks, butters, and cheeses on the planet. And we can't afford not to eat them.

Here is a great article about Dairy's protective effect against diabetes.  

And here are the quotes from Dariush Mozaffarian, the doctor at Harvard School of Public Health.  

And here is a summary of the recent studies on full-fat dairy's health benefits.  


For more on omega-3s   The best work on omega-3s is Susan Alport's book The Queen of Fats.   For an introduction to the subject, try Alport's articles Seasons of Fats.





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