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Full-Fat Dairy Products May Not Harm Your Health, Research Suggests

Butter. Cheese. Cream sauce. Sounds like a recipe for a heart attack, right? Maybe not. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating full-fat dairy products may not raise your risk for heart disease or death, and may even protect against stroke.

Dairy Fat Doesn’t Raise Heart Disease or Death Risk

The study included nearly 3,000 adults ages 65 years and older. Instead of relying on participants to record their dairy fat intake, researchers measured levels of three fatty acids in their blood. Levels of these fatty acids rise when people consume whole-fat dairy products. Blood levels of the fatty acids and health status were checked several times over a 22-year period.

Researchers found that having these fatty acids present in the bloodstream over a long period of time didn’t increase participants’ risk for heart disease and death. Dairy fat was even associated with a 42 percent reduced risk for death due to stroke.

The findings show that dairy fat’s effects on the body may be more complex than previously thought. Certain saturated fats in dairy may increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, and dairy products often contain other nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, that could have protective effects, researchers say.

Keeping Portion Control in Mind Is Key

Before plowing through a pint of ice cream, however, keep in mind that more research is needed. In addition, full-fat dairy products pack more calories than their low-fat counterparts, so it’s still important to practice portion control.

Ask your doctor whether adding full-fat dairy products to your diet could be right for you.

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.