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Should You Be Drinking Whole, Low-fat, or Skim Milk?

Tim Boyer's picture
What milk to drink?

Dietary guidelines may change this year when it comes to recommending whether we should be drinking whole, low-fat or skim milk.


For the past several years most parents have been putting skim or at least low-fat milk on the breakfast table because whole milk was not considered to be as wholesome as lower-fat milk according to dietary guidelines.

The recommendation of promoting low-fat and skim milk over whole milk made sense when you consider that the idea of packing as many micronutrients as possible into every calorie while keeping the calorie count down would lead to increased optimal health by avoiding the saturated fats found in whole milk.

However, that line of reasoning is being challenged by the publication of a review of observational studies on the relationship between dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardio-metabolic disease. The results of the review published in the European Journal of Nutrition revealed that people who drink whole milk tend to weigh less and have lower rates of obesity than those who drink low-fat or skim milk.

"There's a lot of emerging research right now about full-fat dairy versus low-fat or non-fat dairy," Despina Hyde, a registered dietician at NYU's Langone Weight Management program, told CBS News.

The study referred to in the video was a comprehensive review of existing data from previous studies on the relationship between the consumption of dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods on obesity and cardio-metabolic disease.

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What the review found was that in 11 of the 16 studies analyzed, that there was actually an inverse relationship between eating high-fat dairy and gaining body fat. The remaining 5 studies were determined to be inconclusive as to whether there was any relationship between high-fat dairy and obesity or cardio-metabolic disease.

The overall conclusion reached by the authors of the review is that observational evidence does not support the past hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardio-metabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk.

However, they also point out that more studies need to be done to determine if the type of high-fat dairy food makes a difference; or, whether pasture-fed versus grain-fed sources of dairy play a significant role in fat and its association with obesity. Which incidentally, was a distinction made by fitness guru Dave Asprey who recommends putting butter in your coffee as a weight loss measure.

So what do we make of this news? Is it time to return whole milk back to the breakfast table? Maybe so, but in moderation would be best until more is known.

According to Ms. Despina Hyde, the registered dietician interviewed in the CBS News video of the story, fat is not the mealtime bugaboo it once was and is actually nutritionally beneficial.

"What we do know is that fat is not the enemy. Fat is good for us. It provides satiety, that feeling of fullness. It helps us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. So it's good for us for several reasons. However, the fat that's found in dairy is saturated fat, which may not be the best fat out there. There's other, healthier fats like monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega 3s," stated Ms. Hyde.

For more about drinking milk, here is an informative article about why you should be drinking milk in the morning if you want to lose weight.

Reference: CBS News “Whole milk vs. skim: What's best for your diet?”