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For as long as I can remember, I've been a nonfat-milk sort of person. Nonfat lattes at Starbucks, nonfat milk in my morning cereal — it was always just sort of a no-brainer. After all, we've all heard, again and again, that fat (in this case, the saturated fat found in dairy products) is the sworn enemy of both our weight-loss goals and our cardiovascular health.
However, today, NPR is reporting on new research suggesting we may have been misled all along. One recent Swedish study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, found that those who ate full-fat dairy (butter and cream, as well as whole milk) were less likely to become obese over 10 years than those who avoided these products. But, the good news doesn't stop there. Another study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition synthesized data from 16 separate studies, also suggested that consumption of high-fat dairy could be associated with lower body fat. Other research has resulted in similar findings in children, as well as adults.
Sound counterintuitive? It's not just you — experts seem to be a bit stumped on exactly why this might be. Some think it's because foods with higher fat content (think avocados and nuts) help make you feel fuller faster, reducing overall caloric intake. Others suggest that a biochemical mechanism in full-fat dairy products could act as a conduit to help our bodies metabolize that fat, rather than storing it. Whatever the explanation, though, this research reflects a growing trend among nutrition experts away from fat hysteria and toward a more reasonable definition of what's "healthy."