The Dairy Fat Paradox
Fat has, for decades, been considered a “big baddie”. Government guidelines warn us of the dangers of saturated fat, including that from dairy foods. Milk and cheese are substantial contributors of calories and saturated fat to the US diet, but they are also signiﬁcant nutrient providers (9). For example, the authors state that “Three of the top 10 sources of calories and saturated fats (beef, milk and cheese) contribute 46.3% of the calcium, 49.5% of the vitamin D, 42.3% of the vitamin B12 as well as other essential nutrients to the American diet.” So, the totality of the food should be considered when constructing a healthy diet.
Perhaps surprisingly, total and saturated fat intakes have been negatively related to yogurt and dairy consumption including cheeses (6). This analysis used nationally representative data to examine the associations between yogurt and dairy consumption on macro- and micronutrient intakes and indicators of overweight/obesity in children. The authors showed that yogurt and dairy consumption, regardless of fat contribution, were related to higher intakes of calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
Further, the authors reported that yogurt intake was associated with lower total and saturated fat intakes (represented as percent total daily energy intake) in children 8 – 18 years old. The authors speculate that this result could be due to the fact that low-fat and fat-free yogurts represent a large proportion of the yogurt available for consumption in the U.S. Additionally, yogurts could be displacing other high fat foods in the diet, or yogurt may simply be a marker for a more healthful dietary pattern.
Yogurt intake was also associated with a lower BMI and lower waist circumference in this study.