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Aug 8, 2019 / Richard Hall

Rehabilitating dairy fat

For 40 years, the advice has been clear. Avoid saturated fat. Now, a major new study says this was wrong. Saturated fat in dairy products is good, after all. Milk makes it ok.

The advice comes from a notable team led by Professor Arne Astrup from the University of Copenhagen in a report entitled “WHO draft guidelines on dietary saturated and trans fatty acids: time for a new approach,” published in the British Medical Journal.

The report looks at dark chocolate, eggs and meat as well as butter, cheese and yogurt.

• For butter, it finds butter was: ‘weakly associated with all-cause mortality; not associated with CVD, CHD or stroke; and inversely associated with diabetes.’

• For cheese and yogurt, it concludes they are ‘inversely associated with CVD risk; a high intake of cheese is associated with an 8% lower risk of CHD and a 13% lower risk of stroke.’

• For dairy generally, it notes dairy is a ‘major source of protein, calcium and other nutrients’, finding association ‘with lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events’ as well as ‘significantly lower incidence of diabetes.’

So the 2018 WHO draft guidelines, which recommend reducing saturated fat intake and are currently open for consultation, “fail to take account considerable evidence that the health effects of saturated fat varies depending on the specific fatty acid and on the specific food source.”

“A focus on total saturated fat might have the unintended consequence of misleading governments, consumers and industry towards promoting foods low in saturated fat but rich in refined starch and sugar.”

This is so critical because non-communicable diseases accounted for 72% of all deaths worldwide in 2016. Cardiovascular disease was responsible for 45% of these. The draft WHO guidelines rely heavily on 84 studies that focus on total saturated fat and ignore food sources.

My thanks to Global Dairy Platform for pointing all this out.

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