WHY isn't low-fat dairy more beneficial for weight loss compared to full-fat dairy products?
There are many types of milk products on the supermarket shelf, so which one is the healthier choice?
As an accredited dietitian for more than 30 years, I have followed the logical doctrine that:
Full-fat milk and other dairy products, such as yoghurts and cheese, has more energy than low-fat dairy and, therefore, low-fat dairy is recommended for weight loss.
Full-fat dairy products have more saturated fats than their low-fat equivalent products. Saturated fats are damaging to our heart and blood vessels and therefore low-fat is better for heart health than full-fat products.
However, the evidence that is emerging from many research studies is consistently disputing the notion that eating full-fat dairy products is worse for your health or your waistline than low-fat - "the dairy paradox!"
Researchers give the following reasons for this paradox:
Although full-fat dairy has more energy than low-fat, the full-fat food is more filling, resulting in a reduced inclination to eat other unhealthy alternative options, such as highly processed commercial foods.
Although full-fat dairy has more saturated fats than low-fat dairy, not all saturated fats are equal. The saturated fats in full-fat dairy products don't have the negative effect on the arteries and the heart as do saturated fats found in other foods such as fatty meats and commercial foods.
It is still important to note that consuming more energy than your body requires, whether it is with full-fat dairy foods or low-fat dairy foods, would result in weight gain, and obesity is strongly associated with heart disease.
Healthy eating is not just about energy control, but a balanced food intake of important nutrients found in a variety of foods. But how these nutrients, including saturated fats affect our bodies is very complex.
Taking into account the variety and complexity of how nutrients work in our bodies, it is important to not oversimplify the full-fat and low-fat dairy debate.
The whole diet needs to be taken into account and not just nutrients in isolation.
What is clear is that more research is required to help untangle the dairy paradox.
Maya McColm is a Buderim-based accredited dietitian, nutritionist and CEO of NERO (Nutrition Education Resources Online http://www.nero4me.com. au). This is the second in a series of four articles she has prepared for Healthy Weight Week.
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