Remember when eggs were bad for you? All the doctors were telling us that eggs have cholesterol so they’re evil. Fortunately, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I pretty much ignored them. Later we learned that the facts doctors were so sure of turned out to be not quite so factual and that we evolved to process eggs fairly efficiently. Now we have yet another element of the conventional wisdom which may be crumbling under the light of additional study. We’ve been forcing kids to drink low fat or skim milk for years because that was supposed to be bad for you too. Frankly, I can’t stand that watery skim milk so I get the high test stuff anyway. This week we learn that the toxic nature of whole milk may have been rather overstated as well. (Time, emphasis added)
For years you’ve been told to go for skim over full-fat dairy. Even the latest dietary guidelines for Americans urge people to avoid the full fat, and following this lead, school lunch programs provide only low-fat milk and no whole milk at all, even though they do allow chocolate skim milk with its added sugars. But large population studies that look at possible links between full-fat dairy consumption, weight and disease risk are starting to call that advice into question. And some research suggests people who consume full-fat dairy weigh less and are less likely to develop diabetes, too.
n a new study published in the journal Circulation, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and his colleagues analyzed the blood of 3,333 adults enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study of Health Professionals Follow-up Study taken over about 15 years. They found that people who had higher levels of three different byproducts of full-fat dairy had, on average, a 46% lower risk of getting diabetes during the study period than those with lower levels. “I think these findings together with those from other studies do call for a change in the policy of recommending only low-fat dairy products,” says Mozaffarian. “There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy.”
I remember back quite a few years ago listening to an album by comedian Lewis Black where he talked about the confusion consumers experience when it comes to making decisions about their food. Eggs are good. No, eggs are bad! Wait.. the whites are good, but the yolks are bad. Can you make up your mind? I gotta have breakfast!
There really isn’t as much consensus among doctors on most of these questions as you may think, and the things your grandmother told you about eating “regular” healthy food instead of a bunch of candy and junk food may turn out to be more valuable than an army of doctors rushing to get the latest clinical lab study published. Do you remember a short while back when some vegan loving medical professionals made a huge splash by saying that eating meat was as bad as smoking? Yeah, even the Smithsonian found that one to be a bit off the mark.
Writing for New Scientist, Catherine de Lange says that the scientists overstepped their bounds when trying to say that research in mice is directly applicable to people—a misstep that is unfortunately made all the time. And some big assumptions were made with the dietary survey that may not be reasonable: the researchers asked people what they ate on one day, and then assumed that’s how they ate for the past 18 years.
Given that I’m no doctor (and I don’t even play one on TV) you’ll need to make up your own minds, but I refuse to simply let common sense be tossed out the window. Mankind grew up as omnivores. We’re adaptable and we can eat most of what we hunt or forage in nature if push comes to shove. Our teeth carry the distinctive patterns of both carnivores and herbivores. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, roots, fruits and vegetables are all on the menu. Sure, if you live your life taking in nothing but Budweiser and Krispy Kremes you’re probably going to wind up in pretty bad shape. But there aren’t any cows out there producing skim milk and I’m fairly confident there’s a reason for that.
Eat what makes sense and what makes you happy (within reason) and get up off your butt on a regular basis and move around. You’ll probably turn out just fine. And buy the whole milk. It tastes better anyway.