Bring on the Milk Fat and Lose Weight?

March 3, 2014

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I recently read about studies that show a counterintuitive relationship between consuming higher fat dairy products and reduced body weight (e.g. http://n.pr/1kBi0fZ). I read this with concern because animal fats, such as those in high fat dairy products, are a key source of fat-soluble toxins to our bodies (see http://bit.ly/1hywXix) and it can take many years to clear these toxins from our tissues.

What isn’t clear from these studies is whether there are alternatives to dairy fats or animal fats in general that would achieve the same result. For example, they didn’t assess whether people could replace full fat dairy products with healthy vegetable fats, like those in avocados and nuts, to achieve satiety while avoiding the toxins that bioaccumulate in animal fats.

Vegetarian, especially vegan diets, have been linked to lower diabetes, heart disease, and cancer risks (see http://bit.ly/1mQCGT7). And consuming these foods instead of meat products (including fatty dairy products) definitely reduces your exposure to fat-soluble toxins such as PCBs and dioxins, which are taken up by animals at levels many orders of magnitude higher than plants.

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One of these studies on body weight versus dairy fat consumption mentioned the presence of omega-3 fats in organic high fat dairy products as an added health benefit. But there are definitely cleaner sources of these fats. And because most people consume non-organic dairy products, I am concerned about the advice to increase consumption of high-fat dairy since cattle raised conventionally produce lower levels of omega-3 fats in addition to accumulating fat-soluble toxins.

Sometimes what’s best for you in terms of other health indicators may not be best for you with respect to reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals, like the benefits of breast-feeding versus toxins in breast milk and the use of sunscreens with potentially toxic ingredients versus protecting your skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation. In those cases, breast-feeding and reducing exposure to ultraviolet rays make sense, even if they increase exposure to certain toxins.

But in this case, I really would love to see studies compare a vegetarian, low toxin alternative to this association between consumption of dairy fat with lower body weight.

For now, I think the bottom line is to try the vegetarian approach toward achieving a smaller ‘bottom’ to avoid increasing your risk of diseases associated with exposure to toxic contaminants, especially the fat-soluble ones present in high fat dairy products.

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5 Responses to “Bring on the Milk Fat and Lose Weight?”

  1. Dawn Suiter Says:

    Excellent summary, Laurel. I wonder if the article differentiated between dairy products from cow treated or not treated with rBST or other growth hormones. For the small amount of dairy I consume I’ve been consuming full fat exclusively for a while now with the thought that I’m trying to avoid processed foods in general and I wondered if removing the fat might be taking out some nutritional value that science hasn’t yet discovered. Will take your excellent advice and love another good reason to consume guacamole!


    • Hi Dawn,
      You would be getting that with organically-raised cattle but they would still have fat-soluble toxins. I think if it weren’t for the toxins, I would heartily recommend organic dairy products for the health reasons you listed. But even if we stop making toxins now, these particular ones will take decades to clear from our environment and bodies. One note, cattle on the west coast of the US are cleaner than those on the east coast so make sure you’re getting your food from local farmers.
      Laurel


      • Dawn brought up a great point that I didn’t understand at first so I want to clarify:
        Whatever cattle are treated with or not treated with doesn’t change the fact that they bioaccumulate fat-soluble toxins from the environment. The organic issue is more about what they’re fed with, hopefully grass rather than grain, which results in a healthier fat profile. The growth hormone issue is just about whether they’ll need to be treated with antibiotics due to the strain the hormone puts on them.

  2. Dawn Suiter Says:

    Okay, got it. So avoidance and moderation are the keys to reducing toxic exposure but what can we do to counterbalance the inevitable toxic meat and dairy we will consume. My son loves whole milk greek yogurt and I can’t see him giving it up. Can eating foods rich in antioxidants help?


    • Since some of these toxins impact the immune system, getting more antioxidants to improve overall health would make sense. There is no way to avoid all toxins so this approach is important anyway.


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