Insulin and Insulin Resistence - Guide

Insulin is an important hormone that controls many processes in the body.
Asian Feamle Doctor Teaching In White Coat
However, problems with this hormone are at the heart of many modern health conditions.
Sometimes our cells stop responding to insulin-like they are supposed to.
This condition is termed insulin resistance and is incredibly common.
In fact, a 2002 study showed that 32.2% of the US population may be insulin resistant.
This number may rise to 70% in obese adult women and over 80% in some patient groups. About a third of obese children and teenagers may also have insulin resistance.

A1 vs A2 Milk – Does it Matter?

Woman Drinking Milk With A StrawThe health effects of milk may depend on the breed of cow it came from.
Currently, A2 milk is being marketed as a healthier choice than regular milk.
It is claimed to have several health benefits, and to be easier to digest for people who are lactose intolerant.
However, not all scientists agree that A2 milk is better for health.
This article takes an objective look at the science behind A1 and A2 milk.

13 Foods That Cause Bloating (and What to Eat Instead)

Woman With Stomach Ache After Eating GlutenBloating is when your belly feels swollen or enlarged after eating.
It is usually caused by gas or other digestive issues.
Bloating is very common. About 16–30% of people say they experience it regularly.
Although bloating may be a symptom of a serious medical condition, it is usually caused by something in the diet.
Here are 13 foods that can cause bloating, along with suggestions on what to eat instead.

11 Proven Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Bloating

Bloating is the condition of your belly feeling swollen after eating.
Woman with a Bloated Belly
It is usually caused by excess gas production, and/or disturbances in the movement of the muscles of the digestive system.
This can cause increased pressure and discomfort, and can sometimes make the stomach look bigger.
The effect can be quite extreme in certain cases, and some have even used the term “food baby.”
Put simply, bloating involves excessive amounts of solids, liquids or gas in your digestive system.
However, in some people, bloating is caused mostly by increased sensitivity. It justfeels as if there is increased pressure in the abdomen, even though there isn’t.

Sugar Alcohols: Good or Bad?

Woman Putting Chewing Gum in MouthFor many decades, sugar alcohols have been popular alternatives to sugar.
They look and taste like sugar, but have fewer calories and fewer negative health effects.
In fact, many studies show that sugar alcohols can actually lead to health improvements.
This article takes a detailed look at sugar alcohols and their health effects.

What Are Sugar Alcohols?

Sugar alcohols (or “polyols”) are types of sweet carbohydrates.

11 Proven Health Benefits of Garlic (No. 1 is My Favorite)

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Female Doctor Holding Garlic

Those are famous words from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine.
He actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions.
Well… modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.
Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are supported by human research studies.

1. Garlic Contains a Compound Called Allicin, Which Has Potent Medicinal Properties

Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family.
It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks.
It grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste.
However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties.
Its use was well documented by all the major civilizations… including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and the Chinese.
This is what garlic looks like:
Garlic Bulbs and Cloves
The entire “head” is called a garlic bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are about 10-20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take.
We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed.
This compound is known as allicin, and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell.
Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects (which we’ll get to in a bit).
Bottom Line: Garlic is a plant in the onion family, grown for its cooking properties and health effects. It is high in a sulfur compound called Allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits.

2. Garlic Is Highly Nutritious, But Has Very Few Calories

Blonde With Onions, Garlic and Pepperoni
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:
  • Manganese: 23% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA.
  • Selenium: 6% of the RDA.
  • Fiber: 1 gram.
  • Decent amounts of Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron and Vitamin B1.
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need.
This is coming with 42 calories, with 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.
Bottom Line: Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.

3. Garlic Can Combat Sickness, Including the Common Cold

Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system.
One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared with placebo.
The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70%, from 5 days in placebo to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.
Another study found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61%.
If you often get colds, then adding garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.
Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.

4. The Active Compounds in Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure

Elderly Woman Choosing Between Pills and Garlic
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world’s biggest killers.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases.
Human studies have found garlic supplementation to have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
In one study, aged garlic extract at doses of 600-1,500 mg was just as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure over a 24 week period.
Supplement doses must be fairly high to have these desired effects. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.
Bottom Line: High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications.

5. Garlic Improves Cholesterol Levels, Which May Lower The Risk of Heart Disease

Heart and Stethoscope
Garlic can lower Total and LDL cholesterol.
For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplementation appears to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10-15%.
Looking at LDL (the “bad”) and HDL (the “good”) cholesterol specifically, garlic appears to lower LDL but has no reliable effect on HDL.
Garlic does not appear to lower triglyceride levels, another known risk factor for heart disease.
Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.

6. Garlic Contains Antioxidants That May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Garlic on Blue Wooden Board
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the ageing process.
Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage .
High doses of garlic supplementation have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, as well as significantly reduce oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure.
The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may help prevent common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Bottom Line: Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and ageing. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

7. Garlic May Help You Live Longer

Purple Garlic
Effects on longevity are basically impossible to prove in humans.
But given the beneficial effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, it makes sense that garlic could help you live longer.
The fact that it can fight infectious disease is also an important factor, because these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.
Bottom Line: Garlic has known beneficial effects on common causes of chronic disease, so it makes perfect sense that it could help you live longer.

8. Athletic Performance Can be Improved With Garlic Supplementation

Garlic was one of the earliest “performance enhancing” substances.
It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of labourers.
Most notably, it was administered to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps with exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done.
Subjects with heart disease that took garlic oil for 6 weeks had a reduction in peak heart rate of 12% and improved their exercise capacity.
However, a study on nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefits.
Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue may be reduced with garlic.
Bottom Line: Garlic can improve physical performance in lab animals and people with heart disease. Benefits in healthy people are not yet conclusive.

9. Eating Garlic Can Help Detoxify Heavy Metals in the Body

Garlic With Parsley Leaves
At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.
A four week study in employees of a car battery plant (excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19%. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.
Three doses of garlic each day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in symptom reduction.
Bottom Line: Garlic was shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms in one study.

10. Garlic May Improve Bone Health

Garlic Bulbs
No human trials have measured the effects of garlic on bone loss.
However, rodent studies have shown that it can minimise bone loss by increasing estrogen in females.
One study in menopausal women found that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency.
This suggests that this garlic may have beneficial effects on bone health in women.
Foods like garlic and onions have also been shown to have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.
Bottom Line: Garlic appears to have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females, but more human studies are needed.

11. Garlic Is Easy to Include In Your Diet and Tastes Absolutely Delicious

Housewife Cooking
The last one is not a health benefit, but still important.
It is the fact that it is very easy (and delicious) to include garlic in your current diet.
It complements most savory dishes, particularly soups and sauces. The strong taste of garlic can also add a punch to otherwise bland recipes.
Garlic comes in several forms, from whole cloves and smooth pastes to powders and supplements like garlic extract and garlic oil.
The minimum effective dose for therapeutic effects is one clove eaten with meals, two or three times a day.
However, keep in mind that there are some downsides to garlic, such as bad breath. There are also some people who are allergic to it.
If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medications, then talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic consumption.
The active compound allicin only forms when garlic is crushed or cleaved when it is raw. If you cook it before crushing it, then it won’t have the same health effects.
Therefore, the best way to consume garlic is raw, or to crush and cut it and leave it out for a while before you add it to your recipes.
My favorite way to use garlic is to press a few cloves of fresh garlic with a garlic press, then mix with extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt. This a healthy and super satisfying dressing.

12. Anything Else?

For thousands of years, garlic was believed to have medicinal properties. We now have the science to confirm it.
If you have any questions or comments, click "Comments” below.
By Joe Leech, Dietitian

10 Proven Benefits of Blueberries (No. 3 is Very Impressive)

Smiling Brunette with Bowl of BlueberriesBlueberries are sweet, nutritious and wildly popular.
Often labeled a “superfood,” they are low in calories and incredibly good for you.
They are so tasty and convenient that many people consider them to be their favorite fruit.
Here are 10 health benefits of blueberries that are supported by research.

1. Blueberries are Low in Calories, But High in Nutrients

The blueberry is a flowering shrub that produces berries that are colored blue to purple, also known as blueberries.
It is strongly related to similar shrubs, such as those that produce cranberries and huckleberries.
Blueberries are small, around 5-16 millimeters (0.2-0.6 inches) in diameter, and have a flared crown at the end.
They are green in color at first, then change to blue-purple as they ripen.
These are the two most common types:
  1. Highbush blueberries are the most commonly grown species in the US.
  2. Lowbush blueberries are often referred to as “wild” blueberries. They are typically smaller and richer in some antioxidants.
This is what typical blueberries look like:
Handful of Blueberries
Blueberries are among the most nutrient-dense berries. A 1 cup serving (148 grams) of blueberries contains:
  • Fiber: 4 grams.
  • Vitamin C: 24% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin K: 36% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 25% of the RDA.
  • Then it contains small amounts of various other nutrients.
They are also about 85% water, and an entire cup contains only 84 calories, with 15 grams of carbohydrates.
Calorie for calorie, this makes them an excellent source of several important nutrients.

Bottom Line: The blueberry is a very popular berry. It is low in calories, but high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K.

2. Blueberries are the King of Antioxidant Foods

Three Blueberries
Antioxidants are important.
They protect our bodies from damage by free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cellular structures and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer.
Blueberries are believed to contain the highest antioxidant capacity of ALL commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.
The main antioxidant compounds in blueberries belong to a large family of polyphenols, called flavonoids.
One group of flavonoids in particular, anthocyanins, is thought to be responsible for much of the beneficial health effects.
They have been shown to directly increase antioxidant levels inside the body.

Bottom Line: Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids appear to be the major antioxidant compounds.

3. Blueberries Reduce DNA Damage, Which May Help Protect Against Ageing and Cancer

Oxidative DNA damage is part of everyday life.
It is said to occur tens of thousands of times per day, in every single cell in the body.
DNA damage is part of the reason we grow older, and it also plays an important role in the development of diseases like cancer.
Because blueberries are high in antioxidants, they can help neutralize some of the free radicals that cause damage to our DNA.
In one 4-week study, 168 participants were instructed to drink 1 liter (34 ounces) of a mixture of blueberry and apple juice, every day.
At the end of the study, oxidative DNA damage due to free radicals was reduced by 20%.
These findings have also been supported by smaller studies using either fresh or powdered blueberries.

Bottom Line: Several studies have shown that blueberries and blueberry juice can protect against DNA damage, a leading driver of aging and cancer.

4. Blueberries Protect Cholesterol in The Blood From Becoming Damaged

Heart and Stethoscope
Oxidative damage is not limited to our cells and DNA.
It is also problematic when our circulating LDLlipoproteins (the “bad” cholesterol) are oxidized.
In fact, oxidation of LDL is a crucial step in the heart disease process.
Fortunately for us, the antioxidants in blueberries are strongly linked to reduced levels of oxidized LDL.
A daily 50 gram serving of blueberries lowered LDL oxidation by 27% in obese participants, after a period of eight weeks.
Another study showed that 75 grams of blueberries with a main meal significantly reduced the oxidation of LDL lipoproteins.

Bottom Line: The antioxidants in blueberries have been shown to protect LDL lipoproteins (the “bad” cholesterol) from oxidative damage, a crucial step in the pathway towards heart disease.

5. Blueberries May Lower Blood Pressure

Blueberries appear to have significant benefits for people with high blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for some of the world’s leading killers.
Woman Making Heart With Blueberries
In one study, obese individuals at a high risk for heart disease noted a 4-6% reduction in blood pressure, after consuming 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of blueberries per day, for eight weeks.
Other studies have found similar effects, especially when looking at post-menopausal women.
Given that high blood pressure is one of the leading drivers of heart attacks and strokes, the implications of this are potentially massive.

Bottom Line: Regular blueberry intake has been shown to lower blood pressure in numerous studies.

6. Blueberries May Help Prevent Heart Disease

A Single Blueberry
Again, eating blueberries may lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL.
However, it’s important to realize that these are risk factors, not actual diseases.
What we really want to know is whether blueberries help prevent hard endpoints like heart attacks, which are the world’s biggest killer.
In a 2013 study on 93,600 nurses, eating plenty of anthocyanins (the main antioxidants in blueberries) was linked to a 32% lower risk of heart attacks.
This was an observational study, so it can not prove that the blueberries caused the reduction in risk, but it seems likely given the known beneficial effects on risk factors.

Bottom Line: There is some evidence that regular blueberry consumption can help prevent heart attacks.

7. Blueberries Can Help Maintain Brain Function and Improve Memory

Redhead With Blueberries
Oxidative stress can accelerate the brain’s aging process, having negative effects on brain function.
According to animal studies, the antioxidants in blueberries tend to accumulate in areas of the brain that are essential for intelligence.
They appear to directly interact with aging neurons, leading to improvements in cell signaling.
Human studies have also shown promising results.
In one of these studies, 9 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment consumed blueberry juice every day. After 12 weeks, they had seen improvements in several markers of brain function.
A six-year study of 16,010 elderly participants found that blueberries and strawberries were linked to delays in cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.

Bottom Line: The antioxidants in blueberries seem to have benefits for the brain, helping to improve brain function and delaying age-related decline.

8. Anthocyanins in Blueberries Can Have Anti-Diabetic Effects

Blueberries are moderate in sugar when compared to other fruits.
One cup contains 15 grams, which is equivalent to a small apple or large orange.
Asian Woman With Blueberry on Tongue
However, the bioactive compounds in blueberries appear to outweigh any negative impact of the sugar when it comes to blood sugar control.
Research suggests that anthocyanins in blueberries can have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. These anti-diabetic effects have been shown with both blueberry juice and extract.
In a study of 32 obese subjects with insulin resistance, a blueberry smoothie caused major improvements in insulin sensitivity.
Improved insulin sensitivity should lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, which are currently some of the world’s biggest health problems.

Bottom Line: Several studies have shown that blueberries have anti-diabetic effects, helping to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels.

9. Substances in Them May Help Fight Urinary Tract Infections

Blueberries in a White Bowl
Urinary tract infections are a common problem in women.
It is well known that cranberry juice can help prevent these types of infections.
Blueberries are highly related to cranberries, and contain many of the same active substances as cranberry juice.
These substances are called anti-adhesives, and help prevent bacteria like E. coliform binding to the wall of the bladder.
Blueberries haven’t been studied much for this purpose, but the chances are that they have similar effects as cranberries.

Bottom Line: Like cranberries, blueberries contain substances that can prevent certain bacteria from binding to the wall of the urinary bladder. This may be useful in preventing urinary tract infections.

10. Blueberries May Help Reduce Muscle Damage After Strenuous Exercise

Bucket Full of Blueberries
Strenuous exercise can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue.
This is driven, in part, by local inflammation and oxidative stress in the muscle tissue.
Blueberry supplementation may reduce the damage that occurs at the molecular level, minimizing soreness and reduction in muscle performance.
In a small study of 10 female athletes, blueberries accelerated muscle recovery after strenuous leg exercises.

Take Home Message

It is clear that blueberries are incredibly healthy and nutritious.
The fact that they are sweet, colorful, and can be enjoyed both fresh and frozen, is just a tasty bonus.

Is Dairy Bad For You, or Good? The Milky, Cheesy Truth

Dairy products are controversial these days.
Young Woman Holding a Glass of Milk
They are cherished by the health organizations as an essential food for bone health.
But other experts disagree and think that dairy is harmful and should be avoided.
Of course, not all dairy products are the same.
They vary greatly, depending on how the cows were raised and how the dairy was processed.
Also, as it is with most things in nutrition, the ultimate health effects depend on the individual.

Is it “Natural” to Eat Dairy?

One common argument against dairy products is that it is “unnatural” to consume them.
This makes sense… humans are the only species that consumes milk in adulthood and certainly the only species that consumes the milk from another animal.
Of course, the biological purpose of cow’s milk is to feed a rapidly growing calf. Humans aren’t calves… and adults usually don’t need to grow.
Before the agricultural revolution, humans only drank mother’s milk as infants. They didn’t consume dairy as adults… one of the reasons dairy is excluded on a strict paleo diet.
Therefore, it doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary perspective that dairy is “needed” for optimal health.
That being said, people in some areas of the world have been eating dairy for thousands of years and there are many studies that document how the genes have changed to accommodate dairy products in the diet.
The fact that some of us are genetically adapted to eating dairy is a pretty convincing argument for it being “natural” for us to consume it.
Bottom Line: Humans are the only species that consumes milk in adulthood, as well as the milk from another animal. Dairy was not consumed until after the agricultural revolution.

About 3/4 of The World is Intolerant to Lactose

The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a “milk sugar” that is made of the two simple sugars glucose and galactose.
When we’re infants, our bodies produce a digestive enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose from mother’s milk. But many people lose the ability to do that in adulthood.
In fact, about 75% of the world’s population is unable to break down lactose as adults, a phenomenon called lactose intolerance.
This photo shows how common lactose intolerance is in different parts of the world:
As you can see from the photo, lactose intolerance is rare in North America, Europe and Australia, but very common in Africa, Asia and South America.
People who are lactose intolerant have digestive symptoms when they consume dairy products. This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and related symptoms.
However, keep in mind that lactose intolerant people can sometimes consume fermented dairy (like yogurt) or high-fat dairy products like butter.
Some people can also be allergic to other components in milk, like the proteins. This is fairly common in children, but rare in adults.
Bottom Line: About 3/4 of the world is intolerant to lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products. Most people who are of a North European ancestry can digest lactose without problems.

Dairy Can be Quite Nutritious

Dairy Products
Dairy products are very nutritious.
The milk contains all the proteins, fatty acids and micronutrients needed to nurture a growing calf.
Given that human muscles, cells and organs are similar to a calf’s, it makes sense that dairy products are also a good source of nutrients for humans.
A single cup (244 grams) of milk contains:
  • Calcium: 276mg (28% of the RDA).
  • Vitamin D: 24% of the RDA.
  • Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B12: 18% of the RDA.
  • Potassium: 10% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 22% of the RDA.
  • It also contains decent amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamins B1 and B6, Selenium, Zinc and Magnesium.
This is coming with 146 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of high-quality animal protein and 13 grams of carbs.
Calorie for calorie, whole milk is actually quite nutritious. It contains a little bit of almost everything we need.
Of course… there are many different types of dairy. Fatty dairy products like cheese and butter have a nutrient composition that is quite different from milk.
The nutrient composition also varies depending on what the cows ate and how they were raised, especially when it comes to the fatty components.
The composition of dairy fat is actually very complex, it consists of hundreds of different fatty acids. Many of the fatty acids are bioactive and can have powerful effects on health.
Cows that are raised on pasture and fed grass have more Omega-3 fatty acids and up to 500% more Conjugated Linoleic Acid.
Grass-fed dairy is also much higher in fat-soluble vitamins, especially Vitamin K2, a nutrient that is incredibly important for regulating calcium metabolism and has major benefits for both bone and heart health.
Keep in mind that these healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins are not present in low-fat or skim dairy products, which are often loaded with sugar to make up for the lack of flavor caused by removing the fat.
Bottom Line: Milk is quite nutritious, but the nutrient composition varies between the different types of dairy. Dairy from grass-fed or pasture raised cows contains more fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial fatty acids.

Dairy is a Superfood For Your Bones

Calcium is the main mineral in bones and dairy is the best source of calcium in the diet.
Young Brunette With a Glass of Milk
Therefore, it only seems logical that dairy has benefits for bone health.
In fact, most mainstream health organizations recommend that people consume 2-3 servings of dairy per day, in order to get enough calcium for the bones.
But many experts don’t think this is a good idea because countries where dairy consumption is low often have low rates of osteoporosis, while countries that consume lots of dairy (like the U.S.) often have high rates of osteoporosis.
However… this does NOT mean that dairy causes osteoporosis… there are many other differences between these countries.
Actually, dairy is one of the things that mainstream nutrition gets right.
The great majority of evidence shows that dairy improves bone density, reduces osteoporosis and lowers the risk of fractures in the elderly.
Also, let’s not forget that dairy contains more than just calcium. It also provides many other nutrients that are highly beneficial for bone health, including protein, phosphorus and (in the case of grass-fed, full-fat dairy) Vitamin K2.
Bottom Line: Numerous studies show that dairy products have clear benefits for bone health. They improve bone density in the young and lower the risk of fractures in the elderly.

Full-Fat Dairy is Associated With a Lower Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Butter Curls
Full-fat dairy has some benefits for metabolic health.
Despite being high in calories, consumption of full-fat dairy is actually linked to a reduced risk of obesity.
In a review that looked at 16 studies, 11 of them showed that full-fat dairy was associated with reduced obesity, but none of them found such an effect for low-fat dairy.
There is also some evidence that dairy fat can reduce the risk of diabetes.
One observational study from Harvard researchers looked at the amount of trans-palmitoleic acid (a dairy fat) people had floating around in their bloodstream.
In this study, those who consumed the most full-fat dairy had less belly fat, less inflammation, lower triglycerides, improved insulin sensitivity and a 62% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Several other studies show that full-fat dairy is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, but a number of studies show no association.
Bottom Line: Several studies show that full-fat dairy products are linked to a reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, but other studies find no effect.

Dairy May Protect Against Heart Disease… But it Depends on The Type

Man Holding a Glass of Milk
Conventional wisdom dictates that dairy should raise the risk of heart disease because it is high in saturated fat.
However, the saturated fat myth has been debunked in recent years.
There really is no link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease… at least not for the majority of people.
It also seems that the effects of dairy on heart disease risk varies between countries, probably depending on how the cows are raised and fed.
The Nurses Health Study, a major epidemiological study in the U.S., found that dairy fat was linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
However, many other studies show that full-fat dairy has a protective effect, on both heart disease and stroke.
One review of 10 studies, most of which were using full-fat dairy, showed that milk was linked to reduced risk of stroke and cardiac events. There was also a trend towards a reduced risk of heart disease, but it wasn’t statistically significant
In countries where cows are largely grass-fed, full-fat dairy is associated with major reductions in the risk of heart disease and stroke.
For example, one study in Australia (where cows are mostly grass-fed) showed that those who consumed the most full-fat dairy had a whopping 69% lower risk of heart disease.
This is probably related to the high vitamin K2 content of grass-fed dairy products, but there are also studies showing that dairy can improve other risk factors… such as blood pressure and inflammation.
Bottom Line: Studies on dairy and heart disease have led to conflicting results. In countries where cows eat mostly grass, full-fat dairy products are associated with major reductions in heart disease risk.

Dairy, IGF-1, Acne and Prostate Cancer

Cheese And Grapes
Dairy is known to stimulate the release of insulin and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1).
This may be the reason that dairy consumption is linked to increased acne.
But these hormones are also believed to increase the risk of certain cancers.
Of course, there are many different types of cancer and the relationship between dairy and cancer is quite complex.
Some studies suggest that dairy is linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, but an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The association with prostate cancer is actually pretty weak and inconsistent. Some studies show up to a 34% increased risk, but other studies find no effect.
Keep in mind that increased insulin and IGF-1 aren’t all bad. If you’re trying to gain muscle and strength, then these hormones can provide clear benefits.
Bottom Line: Dairy can stimulate the release of insulin and IGF-1, leading to increased acne and a higher risk of prostate cancer in some studies. However, dairy seems to be protective against colorectal cancer.

The Best Types of Dairy

The best dairy products are full-fat, from cows that are grass-fed and/or raised on pasture.
Healthy Woman Drinking a Glass of Milk
They have a much better nutrient profile, including more of beneficial fatty acids and more fat soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin K2.
Fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir may be even better. They contain probiotic bacteria that can have numerous health benefits.
A lot of people also swear by raw dairy products. That is, dairy from milk that hasn’t been pasteurized… a process that may have some adverse effects on the taste and nutrient composition of the milk.
It seems clear that consuming raw milk isn’t nearly as risky as some people make it out to be.
Many people also claim that they don’t tolerate conventional dairy from cows, but get excellent results with dairy from goats.

Take Home Message

When it comes to dairy, there are no good answers that apply across the board. The health effects seem to vary greatly between individuals.
Some people tolerate dairy just fine, others have mysterious symptoms when they consume it and yet others can’t tolerate conventional dairy but feel awesome withraw dairy products.
I personally tolerate dairy and eat a lot of organic, grass-fed yogurt. I frequently use butter with my meals and also eat cheese occasionally. I don’t drink milk… but only because I’ve never really gotten into the habit of it.
If you tolerate dairy products and enjoy them, then by all means eat dairy. There certainly is no compelling evidence that people should avoid it and quite a bit of evidence of benefits.
Just make sure to choose quality dairy… preferably grass-fed/pasture-raised and full-fat.
Low-fat dairy (which is often loaded with sugar) seems to be a bad choice overall… the main metabolic benefits of dairy are due to the fatty components.

By Kris Gunnars, BSc