It’s probably not news to you that the benefits of including dairy products in your diet are questionable; or that dairy has been associated with all kinds of health problems in children and adults, from weight gain and diabetes through to heart diseases and cancer. But how about low-fat dairy actually encouraging weight gain? That is the complete reverse of what it says on the tin!
The ‘fat makes you fat’ school of thought has been promoted by most western governments, with low fat diets recommended almost universally by health authorities. Proponents of this view cite the high fat content of fast food and the overweight nature of many of its consumers as evidence that high fat diets are harmful; this and the modern obsession with high cholesterol places fat firmly in the crosshairs of many doctors and dieticians.
But is it really the fat content of our food that is the main problem? Critics of the view point to the high fat diets of Eskimos, for example, amongst whom heart disease and obesity is virtually unknown. There is also evidence that dairy products stripped of their natural fats and fatty acid profiles actually promote harmful weight gain. Not only this; they increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. How can this be?
A series of studies conclusively show that low- and non-fat dairy products promote ‘metabolic disease’, otherwise known as the ‘metabolic syndrome’.
‘Metabolic disease’ is considered to be the underlying condition that leads to many of the chronic diseases and conditions of modern man including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These diseases as well as their precursors such as high cholesterol and insulin resistance, were all found to be directly associated with low- and non-fat dairy consumption in an analysis of 16 studies co-authored by Dr. Stephen Guyenet. Interestingly, full-fat dairy consumption was associated with a decreased risk of all of these conditions: the complete reverse of what we would expect if we believed the official health guidelines.
Contained in dairy fat are important nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins and numerous fatty acids which aid digestion and provide protection against gut and cardiovascular degradation. These are removed during processing into low-fat varieties. One of the main fatty acids in dairy fat is butyrate. This provides energy to cells in the colon and protects against inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. It has shown potential for treating Crohn’s disease sufferers for instance. However, butyrate is not present in the non-fat dairy versions.
Another of the fatty acids found in dairy fat, trans-palmitoleic acid, can help in regulating blood cholesterol levels and also modulates healthy insulin levels, which reduces the risk of diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. These are two of several important fatty acids found in dairy that have proven health benefits; so why are people being encouraged to consume the low fat versions that offer very little in nutritional value and can cause the reverse effect of what they intend? The scientific evidence of low-fat dairy helping to reduce weight is just not there and it may actually be depriving people of nutrients that their bodies need.
While there are plenty of people who maintain that dairy products are not required in the human diet at all, other than for babies drinking human milk not the milk of an animal, the case for low fat dairy is even more dubious. Most chiropractors and natural wellness practitioners recommend dairy products which are sourced organically from grass-fed animals which are treated humanely, as they may provide an important source of nutrients in a balanced diet. If you have additional questions about what kind of dairy we recommend you can always contact our clinic in Woodbridge directly!