Current dietary recommendations to limit consumption of saturated fat are largely based on early nutrition studies demonstrating a direct link between dietary saturated fat, elevated blood cholesterol levels, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. As full-fat dairy products are rich in saturated fat, these dietary guidelines recommend consumption of fat-free or low-fat dairy products in place of full-fat dairy. However, dairy products vary greatly in both their nutrient content and their bioactive ingredients, and research increasingly highlights the importance of focusing on whole foods (i.e., the food matrix) as opposed to single nutrients, such as saturated fat. In fact, the weight of evidence from recent large and well-controlled studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses of both observational studies and randomized controlled trials indicates that full-fat dairy products, particularly yogurt and cheese, do not exert the detrimental effects on insulin sensitivity, blood lipid profile, and blood pressure as previously predicted on the basis of their sodium and saturated fat contents; they do not increase cardiometabolic disease risk and may in fact protect against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Although more research is warranted to adjust for possible confounding factors and to better understand the mechanisms of action of dairy products on health outcomes, it becomes increasingly clear that the recommendation to restrict dietary saturated fat to reduce risk of cardiometabolic disease is getting outdated. Therefore, the suggestion to restrict or eliminate full-fat dairy from the diet may not be the optimal strategy for reducing cardiometabolic disease risk and should be re-evaluated in light of recent evidence.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease; dairy; saturated fat; type 2 diabetes; yogurt.
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