By Kelley Herring
For decades, the “Diet Dictocrats” in government and mainstream medicine have provided nutrition recommendations which have led us away from our ancestral way of eating.
They recommended that farm-fresh butter should be replaced by margarine or “oleo”. Vegetable oil replaced traditional animal fats, including lard, tallow and duck fat. The “dangerous” tropical fats – including coconut oil and palm oil were also to be avoided. Whole eggs with bright orange yolks were swapped for watery, low-nutrient whites. And full-fat yogurt, sour cream, cheese and other dairy products were replaced by “light” and “skim” versions.
So, how have these recommendations panned out?
A quick glance at health statistics over the last 50 years indicates that this misguided advice has not led to better health. On the contrary – the “low-fat message” has directly contributed to expanding waistlines, increased chronic disease and the decline of public health.
In a previous US Wellness article, I shared a sizeable study showing that people with high levels of certain dairy-derived fatty acids were less likely to die from heart disease or stroke.
Today, you’ll discover a little-known dairy fat that actually improves cellular function and could slash the risk of metabolic syndrome by nearly a third!
The Problem with Soy Cheese, Almond Milk Lattes & Fat-Free Milk
Proponents of dairy alternatives claim their plant-based options are better for you… and the planet.
From soy-based “cheese” to almond milk lattes and “ice cream” made from cashews, the dairy-alternative market is projected to grow from $21.4 billion in 2020 to $36.7 billion by 2025.
But are these alternatives really better for you?
It is true that a certain percentage of the population has issues with dairy. These are typically related to allergies, histamine issues or the body’s response to the pasteurization process.
However, real dairy is far more nutrient rich than dairy-free alternatives. And these nutrients come packaged courtesy of Mother Nature in their biologically-appropriate form. This is a stark contrast to the lab-created “nutrients” in most dairy-free alternatives, which are less-than-optimal and can have harmful effects.
In order to achieve a creamy consistency, manufacturers also use additives like gums and carrageenan, which have been implicated in a wide range of immune and digestive disorders.iiiiii
But what about the fats in dairy? Could these fats have properties that protect our health… just like the omega-3’s in wild fish and the CLA in grass-fed meat?
A large body of research says YES!
An “Odd” Dairy Fat that Protects Health
Studies show that dairy may have unique dietary benefits that no other food group can offer. And these benefits are thanks to a little-known type of fat…
The majority of research on fatty-acid metabolism has been conducted on “even chain fatty acids”. These fats represent more than 99% of the total fatty acid plasma concentration in humans.iv
However, the lesser-known odd chain saturated fatty acids (including heptadecanoic acid and pentadecanoic acid) play vitally important roles in human health. And these fats are primarily derived from dairy.
How do we know?
Because these unique fatty acids are produced at high levels by ruminants (thanks to microbial fermentation in the gut). These healthy fats are then transferred to humans when we consume dairy products.v
Dairy consumption is well known to increase saturated fats in the blood. And if you’ve listened to the Diet Dictocrats long enough, you might think this is a bad thing… but nothing could be further from the truth!
In fact, these “odd chain fats” have been found to have protective effects against some of our most pressing health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and even Alzheimer’s.viviiviiiixxxi
These often-maligned dairy fats protect against a wide range of seemingly-different maladies as a result of their unique ability to impact membrane fluidity…
Membrane Fluidity: A Little-Known Factor in Degenerative Disease
When they are healthy, the trillions of cells in your body have the ability to efficiently accept nutrients and excrete waste. And it is the membrane of these cells that allow this vital transfer to happen.
Unfortunately, however, it is quite easy to damage your cell membranes. Unhealthy fats (like trans fats and oxidized oils), chemicals, free radicals and other environmental toxins can all impair delicate cell membranes.
Damage to the cell membrane makes it more difficult for nutrients to enter and for waste to exit the cell. This directly impacts tissues and organs and sets the stage for chronic disease.
However, researchers have found that odd chain fatty acids act as a cell-membrane stabilizers. They improve critical “membrane fluidity” and boost cellular function. By optimizing the health of cell membranes, all of our cells function better.
And this includes the cells that regulate our response to insulin.xiixiii
In fact, “The Membrane Theory of Diabetes” postulates that rigid cellular membranes impair insulin signaling, glucose uptake and blood circulation. This creates a vicious cycle and contributes to the development of Type 2 diabetes.xiv
This theory has been proven in a number of studies, including the EPIC-Potsdam Study, which evaluated almost 30,000 middle aged men and women over a period of seven years. The study found that the less fluid the cell membranes are… the higher the risk of Type 2 diabetes.xv
In fact, it is interesting to note that the diabetes drug, metformin, works by increasing membrane fluidity.xvi
Now that you’ve learned know how vital membrane fluidity is to prevent diabetes, and the “odd” fats in dairy that improve cell membrane fluidity, the results of this next study should come as no surprise…
More Dairy, Less Diabetes?
The British Journal of Medicine evaluated over 100,000 people taking part in the PURE study. Data on the major components of metabolic syndrome was collected, including blood pressure, waist circumference, HDL, triglycerides and fasting blood glucose. The average daily intake of dairy was also collected (and categorized as either “full fat” or “low fat”).
Here’s what the researchers found:
Total dairy and full-fat dairy (but not low-fat dairy) were associated with lower risk of metabolic syndrome.
At least two servings of total dairy were associated with a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome
At least two servings of full fat dairy were associated with a 28% lower risk of metabolic syndrome
At least two servings of total dairy were associated with a 12% lower risk of diabetes and high blood pressure
At least three servings of total dairy were associated with a 14% lower risk of diabetes and high blood pressure
The researchers concluded:
“If our findings are confirmed in sufficiently large and long-term trials, then increasing dairy consumption may represent a feasible and low-cost approach to reducing [metabolic syndrome], hypertension, diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease events worldwide.”xvii
Full-fat dairy – the very thing we’ve been told to strictly avoid if we want a healthy heart and a slim waist – may just be a powerful functional food for the prevention and management of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease!
Not All Dairy is Created Equal
As is the case with most foods, not all dairy is created equal.
The best dairy products you can buy don’t have a label – they come straight from your local, grass-fed farmer. And they are sold in their most natural form, preferably raw and unpasteurized. When reaching for dairy, here are the healthiest options to choose:
Whole Milk & Heavy Cream – Choose whole milk and cream from pasture-raised cows, free from hormones, pesticides, and other chemicals.
Butter – Opt for grass-fed butter, made simply with cream and salt.
Yogurt, Kefir & Sour Cream. Look for traditionally cultured, full-fat yogurt, kefir and sour cream. Opt for plain varieties of whole-milk yogurt to avoid added sugars.
Cheeses. Raw cheese made from grass-fed milk is the healthiest option.
In an ideal world, we should be able trust that the dietary recommendations from government health authorities and mainstream medicine are truthful and accurate. Unfortunately, it seems that’s rarely the case, as these recommendations are often based on myths, misconceptions and outright lies.
Thankfully, these outdated and incorrect recommendations are finally being buried under a mountain of scientific evidence. It is clear that we are better off to ignore biased health advice and instead follow the ancient wisdom of our ancestors.
Your body requires healthy dietary fats to function best. And as long as you can tolerate it, dairy appears to be an excellent source of healthy fat, including an “odd” type of fat that can protect your heart, improve your metabolism and reduce your risk for diabetes.
Read more of Kelley Herring’s Health & Wellness articles on our Discover Blog.
Kelley Herring is the author of the brand new book Keto Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Click here to learn more about Keto Breads…
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ii Bhattacharyya S1, O-Sullivan I, Katyal S, Unterman T, Tobacman JK. Exposure to the common food additive carrageenan leads to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and inhibition of insulin signalling in HepG2 cells and C57BL/6J mice. Diabetologia. 2012 Jan;55(1):194-203. doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2333-z.
iii Bhattacharyya S1, Feferman L, Borthakur S, Tobacman JK. Common food additive carrageenan stimulates Wnt/ β-catenin signaling in colonic epithelium by inhibition of nucleoredoxin reduction. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(1):117-27. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.852228.
iv Khaw, K.T.; Friesen, M.D.; Riboli, E.; Luben, R.; Wareham, N. Plasma phospholipid fatty acid concentration and incident coronary heart disease in men and women: The EPIC-norfolk prospective study. PLoS Med. 2012, 9, e1001255.
v Brevik, A.; Veierød, M.B.; Drevon, C.A.; Andersen, L.F. Evaluation of the odd fatty acids 15:0 and 17:0 in serum and adipose tissue as markers of intake of milk and dairy fat. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2005, 59, 1417–1422.
vi Sun, Q.; Ma, J.; Campos, H.; Hu, F.B. Plasma and erythrocyte biomarkers of dairy fat intake and risk of ischemic heart disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2007, 86, 929–937.
vii Khaw, K.T.; Friesen, M.D.; Riboli, E.; Luben, R.; Wareham, N. Plasma phospholipid fatty acid concentration and incident coronary heart disease in men and women: The EPIC-norfolk prospective study. PLoS Med. 2012, 9, e1001255.
viii Meikle, P.J.; Wong, G.; Barlow, C.K.; Weir, J.M.; Greeve, M.A.; MacIntosh, G.L.; Almasy, L.; Comuzzie, A.G.; Mahaney, M.C.; Kowalczyk, A.; et al. Plasma lipid profiling shows similar associations with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. PLoS One 2013, 8.
ix Holman, R.T.; Adams, C.E.; Nelson, R.A.; Grater, S.J.; Jaskiewicz, J.A.; Johnson, S.B.; Erdman, J.W., Jr. Patients with anorexia nervosa demonstrate deficiencies of selected essential fatty acids, compensatory changes in nonessential fatty acids and decreased fluidity of plasma lipids. J. Nutr. 1995, 125, 901–907.
x Holman, R.T.; Johnson, S.B.; Kokmen, E. Deficiencies of polyunsaturated fatty acids and replacement by nonessential fatty acids in plasma lipids in multiple sclerosis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1989, 86, 4720–4724.
xii Fonteh, A.N.; Cipolla, M.; Chiang, J.; Arakaki, X.; Harrington, M.G. Human cerebrospinal fluid fatty acid levels differ between supernatant fluid and brain-derived nanoparticle fractions, and are altered in Alzheimer’s disease. PLoS One 2014, 9, e100519.
xiii Jenkins B, West JA, Koulman A. A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease. Molecules. 2015;20(2):2425-2444. Published 2015 Jan 30. doi:10.3390/molecules20022425
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xv Kröger J, Jacobs S, Jansen EH, Fritsche A, Boeing H, Schulze MB. Erythrocyte membrane fatty acid fluidity and risk of type 2 diabetes in the EPIC-Potsdam study. Diabetologia. 2015;58(2):282-289. doi:10.1007/s00125-014-3421-7
xvi Muller S, Denet S, Candiloros H, et al. Action of metformin on erythrocyte membrane fluidity in vitro and in vivo. Eur J Pharmacol. 1997;337(1):103-110. doi:10.1016/s0014-2999(97)01287-9
xvii Balaji Bhavadharini, Mahshid Dehghan, Andrew Mente, Sumathy Rangarajan, Patrick Sheridan, Viswanathan Mohan, Romaina Iqbal, Rajeev Gupta, Scott Lear, Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, Alvaro Avezum, Patricio Lopez-Jaramillo, Prem Mony, Ravi Prasad Varma, Rajesh Kumar, Jephat Chifamba, Khalid F Alhabib, Noushin Mohammadifard, Aytekin Oguz, Fernando Lanas, Dorota Rozanska, Kristina Bengtsson Bostrom, Khalid Yusoff, Lungiswa P Tsolkile, Antonio Dans, Afzalhussein Yusufali, Andres Orlandini, Paul Poirier, Rasha Khatib, Bo Hu, Li Wei, Lu Yin, Ai Deeraili, Karen Yeates, Rita Yusuf, Noorhassim Ismail, Dariush Mozaffarian, Koon Teo, Sonia S Anand, Salim Yusuf. Association of dairy consumption with metabolic syndrome, hypertension and diabetes in 147 812 individuals from 21 countries. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 2020; 8 (1): e000826 DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2019-000826