Full-fat dairy may reduce obesity risk

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Contrary to current popular wisdom, full-fat dairy products may actually be better than low-fat varieties for keeping off weight, says Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) nutrition expert Walter Willett. Willett was featured in a February 21, 2014 Q & A in NewScientist. According to Willett, who is Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition, these findings add to the growing body of evidence that low-fat does not equal weight loss.

The idea that all fats are bad emerged in the 1950s and 1960s when saturated fat was linked to high cholesterol and increased heart disease risk, Willett said. When saturated fat is reduced in products or in people’s diets, it is often replaced with sugar or carbohydrates, negating any potential weight loss benefit.

Willett theorizes that full-fat dairy may help control weight because it promotes more of a feeling of satiety than low-fat. Another possibility is that the fatty acids in full-fat dairy may help with weight regulation.

“The picture of dairy foods and health is complicated and deserves further study,” he said.

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