For decades, low-fat diets were ingrained as a health necessity. If you’ve been holding out on going full fat, here’s what the latest research says.


Have you been holding out on having coffee with whole milk, or homemade pizza with full-fat mozzarella cheese? In years past, many fell prey to the low-fat diet.

How many of you can honestly say you love skim milk (aka water with milk extract)?

The low-fat diet craze in America ignited back in the late 70’s, stemming from the famous Seven Countries Study by Ancel Keys. Back then, all dietary fat was considered deadly. In 1977, the government urged Americans to eat less fat, and by the the mid-’80s, low-fat food production started. By the late 90’s our grocery stores, pantries and fridges were filled with low-fat products that in effect replaced all fats with carbohydrates and sugar.  

The logic was that if it wasn’t fat, it wouldn’t make you ‘fat’.  Low-fat foods would promote cardiovascular health and assist with weight management. Or so they thought.

Instead, heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain skyrocketed.

The tides have slowly changed in the past decade, and it is now recognized that dietary fat is not the demon we were once led to believe. We now know that not all fats are created equal.  With the exception of trans fats, recent data reveals that the link between dietary fat intake and heart disease is weak. Moderate intake of saturated fat is not synonymous with increased heart disease risk, although it’s important to emphasize studies do not suggest an advantage of eating more saturated fats.

Similarly, the cholesterol in egg yolks are no longer the villains they once were. Research has shown that moderate egg consumption can be part of a healthy diet, as egg yolks do not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals.

Now, science is beginning to clear the air around full-fat dairy.

There is growing evidence that shows people who consume whole-fat dairy may be less likely to develop diabetes and other associated metabolic risk factors. A large-scale study published in the American Journal of Nutrition showed that those who drank whole milk reduced their risk of obesity by 8% when compared to those who drank low-fat milk. Another study which measured 3,333 participants over 15 years revealed that whole milk drinkers had, on average, 46% lower risk of having diabetes. Furthermore, another large meta-analysis did not show a link between dairy consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Past research has found that cutting back the amount of dietary fat can lead to the overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar, both of which can lead to higher diabetes and cardiovascular risks when consumed in excess. Another phenomenon that may explain these findings is that higher fat foods make us feel full faster, so the overconsumption of food is less likely to happen.

Nutrition is an ever-evolving science, and while these results won’t change dietary recommendations on full fat dairy right away, we can reconsider if we’ll allow it back into our lives based on our current health status. As always with nutrition, the key point is to keep balance and moderation in mind when interpreting these studies.

Nutritional recommendations should always be about all the foods we eat as a whole, and not about villainizing any single food or nutrient groups.

Adapted from the original article.

Mariana Dineen, MS, RDN, CDN is a Houston-based Registered Dietitian helping women maintain a healthy, balanced life as they juggle work, family, and everything in between.  Through healthy eating, mindfulness, and exercise, she is passionate about teaching others that achieving happiness goes beyond the number on the scale. Connect with Mariana at Pretty Nutritious.