In one paper, published by Swedish researchers in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, middle-aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years compared with men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy.
Yep, that's right. The butter and whole-milk eaters did better at keeping the pounds off.
"I would say it's counterintuitive," says Greg Miller, executive vice president of the National Dairy Council.
The second study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, is a meta-analysis of 16 observational studies. There has been a hypothesis that high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity and heart disease risk, but the reviewers concluded that the evidence does not support this hypothesis. In fact, the reviewers found that in most of the studies, high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of obesity.
"We continue to see more and more data coming out [finding that] consumption of whole-milk dairy products is associated with reduced body fat," Miller says.
It's not clear what might explain this phenomenon. Lots of folks point to the satiety factor. The higher levels of fat in whole milk products may make us feel fuller, faster. And as a result, the thinking goes, we may end up eating less.
When I was afloat on the USS ENTERPRISE I would talk about the characteristics of our ~1100 foot long ship - she could move with great speed, and could accelerate the incomprehensibly large mass of herself with equally amazing power. She could turn hard enough to tilt the deck five degrees. The larger super-tankers on the other hand had a legendary inability to turn. It was a long, slow process and required the tanker captains and their crews to plan their maneuvers with a long lead time.
I'm reminded of that as I watch these news flashes about health and fat. One by one, the years of assumption and conjecture about fat's supposed negative health impacts are being proved what they were - assumptions and conjectures.
If you like milk, it's worth getting the benefit of whole milk.