Skim milk; you either love or hate it. Most people have a strong preference for the type of milk they drink – some can’t stand the thick creaminess of whole, while others firmly turn away from the thinness of skim. Current federal guidelines hold that healthy adults should drink a full three cups of 2% milk per day. However, some have cast doubt on these recommendations, leaving consumers to wonder: which option is truly the healthiest?
In the last few decades, many consumers have made a point to steer clear of whole milk and only offer it to toddlers and young children who need the fat content for proper brain and bodily development. Many today hold the belief that so-called “fatty” dairy products such as butter, yogurt, and whole milk are some of the unhealthiest products in the dairy aisle, and instead research for reduced-fat or nut-based alternatives. This aversion roots in the widely-accepted but never-proven diet-heart hypothesis, which holds that saturated fat raises cholesterol in blood, which in turn causes heart disease. Despite its lack of scientific backing, many people adopted this hypothesis as truth and promptly cut “fatty” dairy products out of their diets. This choice sparked a low-fat health trend, in which people opted for low-fat or nonfat alternatives to their favorite dairy products.
But is a non-fat diet all it’s cracked up to be, given that the hypothesis it was based on is unproven? Scientific research would suggest not. Milk is chock-full of vitamins A, D, E, and K; however, all are fat-soluble. By skimming away the fat, would-be dieters unintentionally toss beneficial nutrients directly down the drain. Moreover, according to a study published in the heart health journal Circulation, those who consume full-fat dairy products have a 46% lower risk of getting diabetes later in life than those who choose low-fat alternatives. These results were somewhat surprising; previously, many had assumed that the higher calorie count in full-fat milk would lead to an increased risk of diabetes. However, these – somewhat counterintuitive – results may be due to consumers’ tendency to replace the calories lost in low-fat milk with carbohydrates and sugary foods. The trend away from diabetes remained regardless of any weight gain attributed to regularly consuming full-fat milk. Thus, increased consumption of sugar, not fat, increases the risk of developing diabetes.
Current recommendations hold that adults should drink at least three cups of 2% milk a day for a healthy diet. However, solid research has proved that rejecting fattier dairy products is a decision based on an unproven hypothesis, and may ultimately prove to be harmful to your health. Don’t believe the diet fads – drink whole milk for a healthier diet!