The verdict: Full fat versus low fat milk
The idea of low fat milk being healthier for us began circulating in the 1950s. It was shown that saturated fat increased blood cholesterol levels, with certain statistical evidence leading to the assumption it resulted in higher rates of heart disease and obesity.
This idea is not totally wrong. Full fat milk does indeed have a high saturated fat content, about 65 per cent in fact.
Simone Austin, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia addresses the claims that saturated fat should be avoided when it comes to weight management.
"We are still recommending saturated fat should be kept to a minimum as there is still a link between saturated and plasma cholesterol levels, however full cream milk is only 4 per cent total fat and is therefore not a high fat product, depending on quantity of course."
Health and nutrition coach and whole foods chef, Lee Holmes, believes that low-fat milk is a great option for those trying to lose weight. Even though the fat is skimmed, the milk itself still contains an abundance of calcium and protein, and these are essential to weight loss.
"Low-fat milk is better for overall weight control and maintenance as it only contains 0.15 per cent fat as opposed to full-cream milk which contains 3.8 per cent fat" she explains.
The broader message is that reduced fat milk remains a better option.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines still recommends 2 per cent fat milk as it can reduce the total daily kilojoule intake to aid with weight management. This is generally believed to lead to weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease.
However, Simone explains why it is not quite that straight forward. "Fat can give some feeling of satiety. If you are having less milk overall, and it is more filling to have full cream milk, then this might decrease overall volume of food consumed and therefore not be detrimental".
This approach is supported by recent research conducted by Swedish researchers, looking at the dairy consumption of a group of middle aged men.
It found that those who ate full fat dairy products were less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years, compare with men who rarely ate high-fat dairy. This is because the weight-loss effect of reducing saturated fat depends on what replaces it in the diet, which is usually sugar and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, most of us are susceptible to consciously or unconsciously replacing a larger reduction in calories with something else.
So, if you drink low-fat varieties of milk in order to reduce calorie intake, you must ensure you are not making up these calories elsewhere for this approach to be effective.
However, in your quest for a slimmer waist line, it is important not to overlook other important health factors.
Milk is a primary source of nutrients, and according to both Simone and the ABS, most over-60s simply aren't getting what they need. "Less than 6 per cent of males or females over 60 meet their target for calcium, so simply aiming to meet their serves is the priority.
Simone stresses that simply aiming to meet serves is the priority. "Milk also provides a valuable source of protein and as we age our efficiency at using protein reduces, so we need to have a little more".
Lee Holmes echoes this, stating that ideally, people over 60 years of age should be having two to three glasses of cow's milk daily to absorb the necessary amounts of calcium. If you don't want to consume that much milk, are lactose intolerant or prefer to opt for non-cow's milk (such as almond) you need to make these nutrients up elsewhere.
"You may want to consider a quality, natural supplement to ensure you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs.
So whether it be low-fat or full-fat, say cheers to milk and manage your weight loss in accordance with other health factors.
What milk makes it into your shopping basket?