Wait, eat more fat for a healthy heart?

If you are trying to lose weight, eating less fat seems like the simplest tactic. However, fat is a bit more complex than that. Turns out dairy fat from milk, butter, and cheese could actually reduce your risk of a heart attack.

Why are some fats good for you

In new data published this week in the journal PLOS Medicine, an international team of researchers determined that when it comes to fat, it all comes down to the quality and the source.

The reason fat gets such a bad rap in the research literature is the way academicians measure its effect on health has been limited, they said.

“Many studies have relied on people being able to remember and record the amounts and types of dairy foods they have eaten, which is especially difficult given dairy is commonly used in a variety of foods,” study co-author Matti Marklund, from Sweden’s Uppsala University, said in a statement.

Instead, Marklund and his team measured blood levels of specific fatty acids found in dairy foods. They said that measuring these fatty acids was more objective. Using that method of measurement, participants with the highest levels of these fatty acids actually had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and even early death.

The study is backed up by independent research.

“While some dietary guidelines continue to suggest consumers choose low-fat dairy products, others have moved away from that advice, instead suggesting dairy can be part of a healthy diet with an emphasis on selecting certain dairy foods — for example, yogurt rather than butter — or avoiding sweetened dairy products that are loaded with added sugar,” Marklund said.

Pick better fat sources instead of abstaining

The new research, which was derived from 17 other studies involving participants from the U.S, United Kingdom, and Denmark (the highest consumer of dairy fat in the world), found that being more discerning about the kinds of fat we consume leads to better results than cutting them out all together. None of the studies reviewed by Marklund and his team could successfully establish a link between higher intakes of dairy fat and an increased risk for death.

“Increasing evidence suggests the health impact of dairy foods may be more dependent on the type — such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter — rather than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy fats overall is beneficial for cardiovascular health,” the authors wrote in a press release. “Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health.”