Dairy dilemma: full-fat can be good for you

Full-fat dairy products may not be the villain they've been made out to be in the battle of the bulge.

A recent study by University of Wollongong researchers has found that participants in a weight-loss trial did not always benefit from the advice to switch from full-fat to low-fat dairy.

Dr Deborah Nolan-Clark said the three-month study of 86 adults found that, while many health professionals advised patients to make the switch, it was not a "one-size-fits-all approach".

What was most interesting, she said, was the way the different sexes took the same advice.

"When advised to switch to low-fat dairy products, men tended to cut down on full-fat dairy rather than make the switch to low-fat dairy," she said.

"And, while women were more successful in incorporating low-fat dairy foods, they chose things like low-fat yoghurt, which has a higher carbohydrate content and so, they weren't actually reducing their overall energy intake."

Dr Nolan-Clark said that was an important find, considering most people made the switch in order to decrease their energy intake and so, lose weight.

She said the men's choice to reduce full-fat dairy rather than switch to low-fat could also have important repercussions as, by doing that, they were reducing the calcium in their diet.

"We know many Australians are not getting enough calcium and dairy is a good source of calcium, and many other nutrients," she said.

"If, when faced with the choice of low-fat dairy, some people choose to just cut or reduce dairy, then that's not a good result."

Instead, Dr Nolan-Clark said health professionals and dietitians should consider each individual's food preferences and overall diet before advising them to make the switch.

"Research has failed to find a link between eating full-fat dairy products and an increased risk of diet-related diseases," she said.

"So you can eat full-fat dairy products and still be healthy, if your diet contains a low level of saturated fat overall.

"That is why health professionals need to take a person's gender, their personal food preferences and total energy intake into account when giving dietary advice relating to low-fat dairy."

The findings of the study, completed at UOW's Smart Foods Centre in collaboration with Professor Linda Tapsell, were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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