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Now can the American Heart Association ever stop hating dairy fat?

By Ted Kyle

The wheels of nutritionism grind slow.

Yet another study – this one published September 11 in Lancet – suggests we shouldn’t fear dairy fat so much. But the American Heart Association (AHA) and other true believers in the dangers of saturated fat show no signs of budging. AHA persists in recommending only fat-free or low-fat dairy.

Another Large Observational Study

Mahshid Dehghan and colleagues published a detailed analysis of data from a large prospective cohort study. They followed 136,384 people. These subjects came from 21 countries on five continents. With nine years of follow-up, the researchers recorded 10,567 deaths and major heart-related events – heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. They focused on the relationship between dairy consumption (whole-fat and low-fat) and major heart-related outcomes.

What they found pointed to a health benefit from eating dairy foods. Consuming dairy predicted fewer deaths and fewer major cardiac events. However, dairy fat made no difference. People who ate whole-fat dairy did no worse and no better than those who stuck with low-fat dairy.

These findings line up with a whole series of prior studies that reassure us we shouldn’t fear dairy fat quite so much.

Nutritionism vs Whole Foods

But nutritionism has a strong hold on our dietary guidelines. After all, it is important to understand components of food that have major health effects. Certain nutrients – for example, folic acid – are critically important. Others – like trans fats – are profoundly harmful.

But saturated fats are a bit trickier. AHA and many others are stuck on thinking that saturated fats are always bad. Data on dairy fat suggests that this generalization might be a bit overly broad.

Nonetheless, in a commentary alongside the new study, Jimmy Chun Yu Louie and Anna Rangan resist any change in perspective:

Readers should be cautious and should treat this study only as yet another piece of evidence (albeit a large one) in the literature.

Nutrition dogma dies hard and slow. But it’s getting awfully hard to defend guidelines that demonize dairy fat.

Click here for the study and here for the commentary. For further perspective on dairy fat, click here.
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Our guest Health News columnist today is Ted Kyle, a healthcare professional experienced in collaborating with leading health and obesity experts for sound policy and innovation to address health needs and the obesity epidemic in North America. For the past 10 years, Ted has dedicated his career to understanding how to address health issues and needs created by obesity.

Ted Kyle is a pharmacist and healthcare innovation professional who serves on the Board of Directors for the Obesity Action Coalition and advises The Obesity Society on advocacy. His widely-read daily commentary, published at https://conscienhealth.org/news/, reaches an audience of more than 10,000 thought leaders in health and obesity.