Whole Fat Milk: Benefits for Moms and Kids | Chris Kresser

Whole Fat Milk: Benefits for Moms and Kids

by Chris Kresser

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(Excerpted from the Weston A. Price foundation Journal: Caustic Commentary – Summer 2007)

Full-fat milk has pretty much disappeared from the public schools—not just in the US, but also in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. In most schools, children have a choice of watery reduced-fat milk or sugar-laden chocolate milk, based on the misconception that the butterfat in whole milk will cause heart disease later in life. So it’s a bit embarrassing when a study comes along showing that whole-fat milk products may help women conceive. Over a period of eight years, Jorge E Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston assessed the diets of 18,555 married women without a history of infertility who attempted to get pregnant or became pregnant. During the study, 2165 women were examined medically for infertility and 438 were found to be infertile due to lack of ovulation. The researchers found that women who ate two or more servings of lowfat dairy foods per day, particularly skim milk and yogurt, increased their risk of ovulation-related infertility by more than 85 percent compared with women who ate less than one serving of lowfat dairy food per week (Human Reproduction, online February 28, 2007). Chavarro advises women wanting to conceive to consume high-fat dairy foods like whole milk and ice cream, “while at the same time maintaining their normal calorie intake and limiting their overall intake of saturated fats in order to maintain good general health.” Once a woman becomes pregnant, says Chavarro, “she should probably switch back to lowfat dairy foods.” No one has looked at the effect on fertility of lowfat dairy for the developing fetus and for growing school children. Odds are that infertility due to life-long fat starvation will not be so easily reversed by a temporary return to high-fat dairy foods.

THS COMMENTARY:

This is a perfect example of how mainstream dogma gets in the way of clear thinking. The study unambiguously showed the superiority of whole fat milk products for helping a woman to become pregnant. Yet the author of the study advises women to “switch back to low fat dairy foods” once she becomes pregnant! So, according to this twisted logic, the nutrients in whole fat milk that helped the woman to conceive in the first place will somehow suddenly be harmful to her and her fetus during pregnancy? Isn’t it far more reasonable to assume that those same nutrients that increased the women’s fertility will also support the growth and development of the fetus? In fact, there is plenty of research that supports this common-sense view (stay tuned for a future post on this.)

And Fatter?

Will lowfat milk served in schools not only make our children infertile, but also fatter? That’s the conclusion from a 2006 Swedish study which looked at 230 families in Goteborg, Sweden. Almost all of the children were breastfed until five months and 85 percent had parents who were university educated. Seventeen percent were classified as overweight, and a higher body mass index (BMI) was associated with a lower fat intake—and those on lower fat diets consumed more sugar. A lower fat intake was also associated with high insulin resistance (www.ub.gu.se/sok/dissdatabas/detaljvy.xml?id=6979).

Whole Fat Milk, Lower Weight Gain

In yet another defeat for the lowfat, you-must-suffer-to-lose-weight school of thought, a Swedish study has found that women who regularly consume at least one serving of full-fat dairy every day gained about 30 percent less weight than women who didn’t. The researchers, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, looked at the intake of whole, sour, medium- and lowfat milk, as well as cheese and butter for 19,352 Swedish women aged 40-55 years at the start of the study. The researchers report that a regular and constant intake of whole milk, sour milk and cheese was significantly and inversely associated with weight gain (that is, those consuming whole-milk products did not gain weight), while the other intake groups were not. A constant intake of at least one daily serving of whole and sour milk was associated with 15 percent less weight gain, while cheese was associated with 30 percent less weight gain (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007;84(6):1481-1488). This wonderful scientific news has not inspired WebMD to remove their guidelines to eating “fabulous foreign foods.” The trick, they say, is to avoid dishes made with coconut milk in Thai restaurants; ghee, beef and lamb in Indian restaurants; and cream soups, cream sauces, béarnaise, creamy dressings, pâté, fatty meats, duck and sausages in French restaurants (onhealth.webmd.com). In other words, enjoy your meal out but not too much.

  1. Has the person who wrote the “commentary” here actually looked closely at the Harvard study?  The so-called “nutrients” in whole milk which will help a woman get pregnant are female sex hormones.  When the fat is removed from dairy products, only male sex hormones are left behind, upsetting the balance of hormones.  Apparently women who consume a lot of low-fat and no-fat dairy are consuming a lot of male sex hormones, while those who consume full-fat dairy consume more female sex hormones. 

    The reason why women should switch back to low-fat dairy once they are pregnant is simply that full-fat dairy is high-calorie and contains saturated fat.  Overall, it is not advised for women or men to consume much full-fat dairy, but full-fat can be thought of as a temporary “health fix” for women wanting to get pregnant.  The study’s advice is not “twisted” logic.  Yes, there are other benefits (aside from fertility) that can come from dairy. The fact of the matter, though, is that this is a complicated issue.  Increase of consumption of full-fat dairy products without giving something else up leads – unavoidably – to increase in consumption of calories, and being overweight above a certain point can decrease fertility and is just plain unhealthy.  Being overweight while pregnant can lead to several complications.

    There have been studies which show that dairy consumption in some way results in smaller waistlines.  There are probably other benefits, too.  But in America today, most people do not bother to balance their intake of high-quality higher-fat foods with a decrease in consumption of other foods.  They could likely do so – consumption of real, honest to goodness fat, satiates in a way that fat-free cannot.  But they don’t.  And the jury seems to still be out on the issue of saturated fat from milk and its affect on the heart.  So, it seems to be simply the responsible thing to do to tell women who are already pregnant to switch back to low-fat.

  2. Oops!  Thanks for catching that.  I was talking about coconut milk.  And it’s not that high in sugar (2g per 2 oz), but I know that some people react to it in a way they don’t react to coconut oil.

  3. Chris,
    Is the last sentence in the above post an error?  I’m wondering what cocomut product you might actually have been talking about . . .
    Sue

  4. The part pertaining to “avoid coconut milk” in the blog is not something I am totally fixated on. I am reading a book about coconut oil right now and there is a lot of evidence in the book about medium chain triglycerides benefits. What are your thoughts on this?

  5. What is the link between milk and acne? I want to start to drink milk again, but I’m afraid for my skin.

  6. Thanks for thanks for the link — I’m now in discussion with a farmer out in East Sooke (about an hour our of town) and I’ve also located a source of raw cheese here in Victoria! Thanks again!

  7. Bronwyn,

    1) Yes, go to “http://www.realmilk.com/where-other.html”. They have some listings for BC, but I don’t see any in the Victoria area. Nevertheless, it might be worth asking around. Occasionally local farmers will be willing to sell raw milk for your *pets* if it is illegal to sell for human consumption. It’s also often possible to buy into a “cow share”, which means you will own a portion of a cow with others; since you are then the owner of the cow, you are entitled to drink its milk legally. This is how many people obtain raw dairy products in the U.S. You might also ask at the local health food stores if anyone knows of a local cow share or source; Elanne’s sister-in-law Trish found a source in Prince George this way. Finally, you can try joining the “Native Nutrition” Yahoo group and posting a message there asking if anyone knows of a source in Victoria. It’s a large group of folks who follow these nutritional principles.

    2) I think ghee made from grass-fed or organic butter is excellent. We use tons of the stuff ourselves – just bought a five-pound tub a few weeks ago, as a matter of fact!

    Best,
    Chris

  8. Chris —

    Two things:

    1) is there a resource site listing sources of raw dairy? or is this wishful thinking, being that in many places it is illegal to sell raw dairy products?!

    2) what is your thinking about ghee made from a good source of organic butter?

    Love the blog — jam packed with information and insights! I’m thrilled to have signed up for your feeds!

    Thanks, Bronwyn

    • Hi Bronwyn,

      This website is a great resources for learning about raw milk legislation and availability: https://www.realmilk.com/

      Ghee made from grassfed butter is a great fat choice! A quick search for “grassfed ghee” will yield lots of results but two brands I like are Tin Star Foods and Pure Indian Foods.

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