I went to college when “fat free” was all the rage.  Snackwells, skim milk and fro-yo were in. Avocado was out. As absurd as it sounds to recount this now, it’s even funnier to think that I was in New Orleans, land of beignets and muffaletas. Little did I know that my eating regime was as off-kilter as the city’s cuisine.  Aside from improved nutrition knowledge and time to “mature” what strikes me about this type of eating is how poorly it must’ve tasted. How many cups of greyish coffee did it take to prove this point?  A few too many.  I write this to show you how easy it is to get swept up in an eating trend or prevailing nutrition advice.
You will not find skim milk in my refrigerator today and I’m proud to say my day starts with coffee and a splash (or 2 splashes) of  delicious half and half. (currently Sky Top farms grass-fed, non-homogenized, adore it). I also didn’t switch my kids to  1%  at 2 years old as the current advice from the AAP suggests. After my brief “blue period” I went back to how I was raised. A little bit of the real thing is best.
I’ve posted before about organic milk and ultra pasteurization but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago  that I realized the potential problems with skim milk. My interest was first piqued reading Walter Willet’s Fertility Foods. We have many clients trying to conceive and the research about skim dairy and infertility floored me. Low-fat dairy contributed to infertility (when issues are based on anovulatory failure) and full-fat dairy increased fertility.  What really turned me off was the proposed reasoning. When the fat is removed from milk, the portion that’s not fat contains more androgens and other hormones that may not be conducive to fertility.  The androgen argument may explain why another Harvard study found that teenage boys drinking skim milk had a higher incidence of acne.  Again, what’s in the fat or skimmed out seemed to help.
Last week, I read an article posted by my colleague Julie Negrin entitled “Is Skim Milk Making You Fat”. The article challenges the traditional “low fat dairy for health and wellness” dogma.   They write:
It’s becoming widely accepted that fats actually curb your appetite, by triggering the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, which causes fullness. Fats also slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, reducing the amount that can be stored as fat.
I find this so interesting as we have a country that’s watching dietary fat and getting fatter.  It always seems to me that children have the best innate sense of calorie regulation. An Australian study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that children’s calorie intake did not change when they were switched to low-fat milk. Children replaced the calories with other energy sources and did not lose weight.  Another large study tracked the habits of 19,252 Swedish women for 9 years. Women increasing their whole milk consumption the most lost 9% of their body weight, on average. Women who increased their low-fat dairy the most gained 10%.
Anecdotally, I am also concerned about skim milk and bone health. Fat in milk can help us assimilate vitamin D. I have not found a tremendous about of research on this but have seen many 30-something clients who grew up on low-fat milk now with osteopenia and fractures. I’d be curious to see if the very thing we think is helping us may not be.  This whole debate reminds me of the whole butter versus margarine debate. On that subject, the great Joan Gussow said “I trust cows more than chemists.” The more I read about the processing involved in making skim milk palatable, I think this applies here too.  If you eat dairy, I would suggest a little bit of the real thing.
Do you purchase milk? What type do you buy? Are you skeptical of skim milk?


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