The Skinny On Full Fat Dairy

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I only eat fat free dairy products.  I use skim milk in my coffee, and eat 0% Greek yogurt for breakfast. I do this mainly because I always do. I have been conditioned to think that fat is bad for you, and the reduction in calories from fat free products is a good thing. Also, I am perfectly satisfied with the taste and consistency, so I don’t even think to try a richer, higher fat version.

Until now. A recent study at Washington State University analyzed 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over an 18 month period and found that the organic milk contained significantly more heart healthy omega-3s than it’s conventional counterpart. It also found that whole milk had an even higher amount of omega-3s than reduced fat versions. Hmmm.

The vitamins in milk, especially vitamins A and D are fat soluble, which means they require fat to be absorbed into the body. Omega 3s are a fatty acid, so it should come as no surprise that more of them would appear in full fat milk. According to the study, the whole milk contained 50% more omega-3s than 2% milk, and 66% more than 1% milk.

The other interesting fact is the levels of omega-6 fatty acids in conventional milk were extremely high, due to the corn and grain intensive diet fed to conventional cows, vs. the mostly grass fed diet of organic cows.

Omega-6 acids promote cell rigidity and help our blood to clot by triggering an inflammatory reaction in our bodies. They are also involved in fat storage.  Omega-3 acids help calm inflammation, promote cell permeability, and metabolize glucose. While we need to have both of these in our diets, the ratio of omega -3 to omega-6 should be about 1 to 1. Due to the amount of corn and soybean oils found in many commercial products consumed in the United States, the amount of inflammatory omega-6s are much higher.

While the Department of Agriculture and other food and nutrition experts have yet to change their tune on fat in dairy products, researchers hope that this information will trigger new ways of thinking about fats in general.

photo:Glasshouse Images

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