The foes of full-fat dairy products like to warn consumers that butterfat and other animal fats will cause weight gain. But two recent studies have concluded that the consumption of whole fat dairy products is linked to reduced body fat. In one paper, middle aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of twelve years compared to men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy (Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, 2013 Jun;31(2):89-94). The second study is a meta-analysis of sixteen observational studies aimed at exploring the hypothesis that high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity and heart disease risk (European Journal of Nutrition 2013 Feb;52(1):1-24). The researchers concluded that the evidence does not support this hypothesis; in fact, the reviewers found that in most of the studies, high-fat dairy consumption was associated with a lower risk of obesity. Scientists are scratching their heads as to the reason—there’s the satiety factor in butter, for one, and possibly bio-active components that boosts metabolism. Vitamin A and iodine in butter make it a great food for thyroid function, and shortchain fatty acids in butter raise body temperature. But maybe it’s because butter is a real food that nourishes the whole body, and does not make us tempted to eat more and more, the way that butter substitutes do.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2014.