Could Full-Fat Dairy Be Good For You?

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Health experts have long warned people away from full-fat dairy products because they contain high levels of saturated fat, which is thought to raise levels of LDL—or “bad” cholesterol. But a major new study has concluded that in moderation, whole milk and full-fat yogurt and cheese could in fact help protect against heart disease and stroke. Researchers examined data from more than 130,000 people across 21 countries over nine years and found that participants who ate two or more daily servings of full-fat dairy had a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease, a 34 percent lower risk of stroke, and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. (A serving was 8 oz of milk or yogurt, or a half-ounce slice of cheese.) Butter consumption wasn’t linked to similar benefits—though that may have been because most of the study’s subjects ate little of it. Study co-author Mahshid Dehghan, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, says that while full-fat dairy is high in saturated fat, it contains many other nutrients that are important for a healthy diet, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K. “We should not focus on a single nutrient,” she tells Time.com. But Dehghan adds that people should not massively ramp up their consumption of full-fat dairy products, because those foods are high in calories. “The message of the study,” she says, “is moderation.”

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