Study: That full-fat dairy stuff isn't bad for you

Wisconsin State Farmer


Pass the cheese, please.

And the cream and that carton of full-fat yogurt and a big glass of non-skimmed milk.

And, yes, eat it to your heart’s content.

That’s the finding of an international team that analyzed 29 studies and found that dairy products — even high-fat ones — does not increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The study, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that consumption of the creamy comestibles had a “neutral” effect on our health, according to a report in the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper.

One of the researchers, Ian Givens, a professor of nutrition at England’s Reading University, told the paper that “there’s quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but that’s a misconception. While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that that’s wrong.”

“There’s been a lot of publicity over the last five to 10 years about how saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and a belief has grown up that they must increase the risk, but they don’t.”

Eat it to your heart's content: A piece of Single Gloucester, a full-fat hard cheese made with Old Gloucester cows milk.


Givens and others from Reading, Copenhagen University in Denmark and Wageningen University in the Netherlands looked at studies involving 938,465 people from around the world undertaken over the last 35 years, the Guardian reported.


“No associations were found for total (high-fat/low-fat) dairy and milk with the health outcomes of mortality, CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease),” they said, adding that fermented dairy products may actually lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Givens told the paper the consumers were mistakenly shunning cheese, milk or yogurt because of health concerns, resulting in damage to bone development.

However, the report was met by skepticism from other experts. The U.K. government’s health advisers told the Guardian that they would continue to advise caution about eating too many products high in saturated fat.

“Dairy products form an important part of a healthy balanced diet; however, many are high in saturated fat and salt. We’re all consuming too much of both, increasing our risk of heart disease,” said a spokesman for Public Health England. “We recommend choosing lower-fat varieties of milk and dairy products or eating smaller amounts to reduce saturated fat and salt in the diet.”

And Mike Knapton, an associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, described the team’s claims as "unhelpful and misleading."

"Decades of research have proved that a diet rich in saturated fat increases 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol in your blood, which puts you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke," he  said in a statement published on the foundation’s website.