Full-Fat Dairy May Be Better for You Than Low-Fat, Study Says

Those who eat full-fat dairy may be less likely to become obese or develop diabetes.

If you’ve ever felt personally victimized by low-fat cheese, science is now on your side.

A new study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Tufts, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that low-fat dairy may be no better for you than full-fat. In fact, the study found that those who eat lots of full-fat dairy may be between 44 and 52 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who eat less of it. We like those odds.

The researchers studied 3,333 adults between the ages of 30 75 for a period of more than 15 years. Throughout the study, the subjects underwent blood tests that were then examined for byproducts of full-fat dairy. While roughly 300 participants did develop diabetes, after adjusting for lifestyle habits, diet, and demographics, researchers found that those who ate the most full-fat dairy, and had higher plasma fatty acid levels in their blood to prove it, were significantly less likely to develop the disease.

These results, published in the journal Circulation, may sound a bit surprising, as full-fat dairy is high in calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat. But an increasing number of studies—like one that found that women who consumed full-fat dairy were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who ate low-fat dairy—are starting to change the game.

How can something long seen as a diet enemy improve your health? Some experts speculate that because whole dairy has more fat, it keeps you satiated longer and cuts overall calorie intake. Others, like Boston Children’s Hospital and HSPH doctor David Ludwig, say low-fat foods send people into the waiting arms of unhealthy, highly processed carbohydrates.

Even still, however, the 2016 federal dietary guidelines still recommend choosing non- or low-fat dairy. Indeed, nutrition research is constantly evolving, so this study shouldn’t become license to wolf down a block of cheese every night—but you may be able to ease up on your fat phobia just a little bit.