Is full-fat milk best? The skinny on the dairy paradox

At the end of February New Scientist published an article explaining the odd relationship between obesity and fat from dairy products. Several studies suggest that people who consume full-fat dairy products are at less risk of putting on weight around the abdomen. And we already know that abdominal fat is bad for you, being associated with cancer, heart-disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.

The article takes the form of an interview with nutritionist Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health, and takes a tour of some of the evidence. In summary – as with so much research! – Willett decides that "further study" is required and the relationship between obesity and dairy fat consumption is "complicated".

He touches on a couple of thorny problems:

  1. When we reduce fat in the diet we tend to replace it with other calorific foods, often sugary snacks or other simple carbohydrates.
  2. Low-fat diets are not very satisfying, so those replacement foods can be eaten in excess.

This is perhaps an unhappy message for those looking for a quick-fix diet for permanent weight-loss. It adds to plenty of other evidence that losing abdominal fat unfortunately requires hard work and a vigilant diet. Doubtless this is far harder for some people than it is for others for various reasons of genetic predisposition and environment.