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Skip the Skim: New Study Says Full-Fat Dairy Could Fight Diabetes & Obesity

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
You already know that milk does a body good—it's an essential source of vitamins, minerals and proteins. And the general consensus has been that skim or low-fat dairy is a better choice than full-fat—even the USDA's Dietary Guidelines recommend fat-free milk. But some new research suggests skipping the skim can be beneficial. So if you've been tolerating the watered-down version for the sake of your waistline, this could be the full-fat green light you’ve been waiting for.
In one study led by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, more than three thousand milk drinkers had their blood analyzed. The ones who drank full-fat milk were 46 percent less likely to develop diabetes during the 15-year study period.

Although the reason behind the reduced risk isn't clear, it could be that full-fat dairy is better at breaking down sugars and keeping insulin and glucose in check. Plus, some fermented high-fat dairy foods (such as yogurt and cheese) could trigger gut microbes to more efficiently manage the body's response to insulin.
According to Mozaffarian, "there is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy."
For decades, we've believed that skim milk is a wise choice for those trying to lose weight, but that assumption may have turned sour. Another study found that women who chose the higher-fat dairy products were actually eight percent less susceptible to being overweight or obese. This could be due to the fact that people who drink skim milk are more likely to seek out carbs, calories and sugar from other food sources, which can ultimately lead to weight gain. Full-fat dairy consumers may feel more satisfied and less likely to overindulge in other areas.
"We really need to stop making recommendations about food based on theories about one nutrient. It’s crucial at this time to understand that it’s about food as a whole, and not about single nutrients," Mozaffarian concludes.
Although the USDA's guidelines probably won't be changing anytime soon, these new findings open up the door to more research into full-fat dairy benefits. In the meantime, Mozaffarian says it's best to consume a variety of dairy, rather than automatically avoiding all full-fat products.
What do you think of this new research? Do you drink skim milk, full-fat milk or a dairy-free milk alternative? Discover more ways to boost calcium intake.