About 10 years ago, I consulted holistic health counselor Cynthia Stadd about my food and exercise routine; I wanted to lose a few pounds and ensure that my vegetarian diet was as healthy as I assumed it was. She gave me lots of great information that I have carried with me since, and most of it was stuff I had heard but needed help putting into practice, which she was ideal for. But one piece of her advice really stood out; she told me that I should eat — and enjoy — full-fat dairy and butter in modest amounts, rather than consuming the butter substitutes and low-fat yogurt I had been. Stadd told me that as long as the dairy was organic (cows, like people, store toxins in their fat), I would feel full faster and more satisfied when I ate full-fat dairy, and she had seen her clients eat less overall after making the switch. 

I did as she said, and combined with other tactics (upping my veggies, etc.) I lost weight. And I never went back to non-fat dairy — I hardly needed an excuse, because once you've tasted regular yogurt again, or spread real butter on your morning toast, you have little desire for the lower-fat stuff. The key here is to be sure to consume this dairy in moderation, though it's arguably easier to do since whole milk, ice cream, yogurt and real butter have so much more flavor than their substitutes. (Of course, none of this is useful information for those who are lactose-intolerant or vegan). 

Like other alternative health concepts that have turned out to be true, new research has shown that full-fat dairy does indeed lead to lower rates of obesity. As reported on NPR, several studies published over the past year have, perhaps counterintuitively, shown that eating fat-rich dairy is linked with lower body weight for adults (and for children, even though current guidelines suggest switching kids to low-fat milk when they are 2) over the long term.

A large Swedish study looked at a group of men's weight over a 12-year period and found: 

"A low intake of dairy fat at baseline (no butter and low-fat milk and seldom/never whipping cream) was associated with a higher risk of developing central obesity and a high intake of dairy fat (butter as spread and high-fat milk and whipping cream) was associated with a lower risk of central obesity as compared with medium intake (all other combinations of spread, milk, and cream) after adjustment for intake of fruit and vegetables, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, age, education, and profession."

Health-conscious people seem to have known this information already. "We definitely in the last few years are seeing a trend toward the whole-fat products," Georg Siemon, CEO of farmer-owned Organic Valley, told NPR. 

While researchers aren't sure if the reason for the fat-milk/slimmer people phenomenon is what Stadd had told me — that it's due to the fats making you feel full — or for some other biochemical reason, it seems that when consumed in moderate amounts (that part is key, of course), the better-tasting option is actually the one that's healthier for most of us. 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Butter and whole milk linked to lower obesity rates
No, we haven't swapped reality for the world depicted in the film"Sleeper," but low-fat dairy isn't a great weight-loss tool after all.