"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Full-fat dairy products are suitable for a heart-healthy weight loss program

July 11, 2023 – In the hectic world of attempting to eat healthy, researchers have excellent news for dairy lovers: Full-fat foods, especially dairy products, can and must be included in a nutritious weight loss program.

This result contradicts dietary guidelines within the United States and other countries, which recommend limiting the consumption of full-fat foods in favor of low-fat products.

The PURE The weight loss program recommends 2–3 servings of fruit per day, 2–3 servings of vegetables per day, 3–4 servings of legumes per week, 7 servings of nuts per week, 2–3 servings of fish per week, and 14 servings of dairy products (mainly full-fat).

The researchers developed the PURE Healthy Diet Score for the present study, which was published online on July 7 in European Heart Journalbased on an evaluation of 245,000 people in 80 countries worldwide.

Lead study creator Dr. Andrew Mente of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, said that healthy eating has focused on low-fat foods for too long.

“Our results suggest that the priority should be to increase the consumption of protective foods such as nuts (which are often avoided due to their high energy content), fish and dairy products, rather than limiting the consumption of dairy products (especially full-fat dairy products) to very low amounts,” said Mente.

More than 145,000 people from 21 countries took part within the study. The study uses a scale from 0 (least healthy) to six (healthiest). The average rating of the participants was 2.95.

In an earlier version of the PURE weight loss program, participants were penalized for things like pork. This time, nevertheless, researchers said “unprocessed” pork had little impact on the outcomes. Unprocessed meat generally refers to cuts of meat which have not been otherwise processed, similar to steaks, sirloin and chops. Processed meat includes bacon, sausage and ham.

At a mean follow-up of 9.3 years in probably the most recent study, the healthiest weight loss program (rating of 5 or higher) was related to a 30 percent lower risk of death, an 18 percent lower probability of heart disease, a 14 percent lower risk of heart attack, and a 19 percent lower risk of stroke compared with the unhealthiest weight loss program (rating of 1 or lower).

The researchers also calculated scores for popular diets similar to the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The associations between heart health and weight loss program were barely stronger for the PURE rating.

Furthermore, the outcomes were consistent each in healthy adults and in individuals with heart disease or diabetes initially of the study.

The most significant message for everyone seems to be to “eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and a moderate amount of fish and whole dairy products to reduce the risk of heart disease and death,” Mente said. “Guidelines and policies need to be updated with this newer evidence.”

Many other diets are also excellent at predicting disease risk, counters Howard D. Sesso, ScD, MPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Is PURE that much better? Maybe, maybe not. But not enough to dismiss other diets that already form the basis for recommendations in the US, Europe and around the world.”

“I don't think guidelines should be changed because of this single study,” Sesso said, “but I welcome the scientific dialogue that should arise from any study that challenges what we think we know.”

In the meantime, he said, “people should follow the healthy eating pattern that works best for them.”