Skip The Skim, Grab The Whole Milk
By Tyler Woodward
Since the 1980s skim milk has become the milk of choice for many Americans. Low-fat alternatives have become encouraged in order to lessen their risk of heart disease, but has this idea stood the test of time?
Why Skim Milk?:
In the early 1940s Ancel Keys, released the notorious lipid hypothesis. This is the idea that high saturated fat intake was associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol which was believed to be the cause of atherosclerosis or heart disease. If you wanted to avoid heart disease, you had to avoid dietary cholesterol and saturated fat.
In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered from a heart attack and fat phobia ensued. One year later the American Heart Association endorsed Ancel Keys' idea stating that saturated fat is bad because it increases cholesterol which causes heart disease.
This narrative has continued to be pushed on the Americans’, telling people to swap out the saturated fats for low-fat or polyunsaturated fat alternatives including skim milk, margarine, nut milks, the list goes on… And since then nothing has changed according to modern health authorities including the American Heart Association, swap the saturated fats for the polyunsaturated fats.
These ideas all fail to recognize one crucial component, heart disease has not gone away. In fact, according to the CDC 1 in 4 deaths in Americans is caused by heart disease. Yet, all of these organizations continue to ignore evidence that saturated fat intake does not increase the risk of heart disease and that polyunsaturated fats are consistently associated with an increase in all-cause mortality, despite decreasing cholesterol levels (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
While heart disease itself has declined from the 1960s, likely due to the decline of smoking, cancer, diabetes, along with a host of other diseases have drastically increased. In fact, Americans as a whole are more obese than ever, with 40% of Americans being obese.
- Saturated fat is not the enemy.
- Saturated fat does not make you gain weight
- Saturated fat does not cause heart disease.
Read More: The Nonessential, "Essential" Fatty Acids
Back To Milk:
Everyone knows that milk is a great source of calcium and you need calcium to “build and maintain strong bones”. We also know today that weight gain is driven by a caloric surplus, consuming more calories than you’re burning. In this light low-fat milks are seemingly a great way to consume adequate calcium without all the calories from the fat in milk. But this isn’t the end of the story…
Imagine I gave you 10 bullets to go hunt up some dinner, but I didn’t give you the gun to shoot it out of. The bullets are rendered basically useless then right?
This is the equivalent of consuming calcium without the vitamins that are necessary to regulate it. Vitamins K & D are responsible for putting calcium into the “right places”, your teeth and bones. Without these vitamins you can consume all the calcium you want, but it won’t make a difference in strengthening your bones.
In fact, Dr Steven Lin, author of the Dental Diet states that, “if you ate food rich in calcium, but your body didn’t have enough Vitamin D it would only absorb 10-15% of the calcium you took in”. Not only that, but vitamin D is necessary to bring calcium into your bones and away from your tissues.
Vitamin K is responsible for activating the protein osteocalcin, which you can think of as ‘builder ' attaching the calcium to your teeth. Without Vitamin K the calcium osteocalcin won’t be activated and again the calcium will not end up in the right places.
Vitamin A, which is also found in milk, is believed to also play a role in regulating bone growth. Lastly, vitamin E in milk is important to help to counteract and stabilize the polyunsaturated fats in milk.
But here’s the kicker, all of these vitamins are found in the fat.
Vitamins A, D, E & K are all fat-soluble vitamins, meaning when you take out the fat you take out the vitamins too. When you remove these vitamins you’re losing the majority of the benefits of milk. Vitamin K also plays a role in removing calcium from your arteries to be used to mineralize your bones.
Don’t they add vitamin A & D back in?
Technically, yes, but also not really. When they fortify the lower fat milks with additional vitamins the majority of the time they are putting in the plant versions of these vitamins, beta-carotene instead of retinol (vitamin A) and vitamin D2 instead of D3. While humans can use these vitamins in small quantities we must convert them into their active “animal” forms in our body’s. As humans we are extremely poor at digesting these plant vitamins and only a fraction of the amount of these vitamins that we eat end up being absorbed and then converted into the active form in our body.
Not to mention that they don’t put in any of the synthetic vitamins to replace the vitamin E or K that is naturally found in milk.
Worried About The Extra Calories?
If you’re worried about gaining weight from switching to whole milk, remember that the most beneficial part of milk is the vitamins that are found in the fat. Not to mention a number of studies have found that children who drank low-fat alternatives compared to whole milk were actually more likely to be overweight (1,2). Additionally, many people argue that low-fat milks are less filling than whole milk, leading to increased calorie consumption from other foods.
And there’s one last point I’d like to mention, the calcium paradox...
The Calcium Paradox:
Calcium is the main element that builds up in your arteries over time causing what has become known as plaque. So shouldn’t you avoid calcium? Actually it’s quite the opposite…
When your blood becomes low on calcium your body releases parathyroid hormone which pulls calcium out of your bones to fuel your cells. When the calcium is leached out of your bones, this increases the likelihood of your arteries becoming calcified. By consuming adequate amounts of calcium, along with Vitamin D & K to regulate calcium, you ensure that the calcium stays in your bones and not in your arteries.
What Type Of Milk Should You Buy?:
Today, there's a ton of milk options in the store, so it can be difficult to sift through all the options to find the best one. So here’s a guide on what to look for:
- Grass-Fed - Milk coming from grass-fed cows is arguably the most important piece. Grass provides all the nutrients cows needs to grow and thrive, while also ensuring those nutrients make it into the milk. Grass-fed cows also tend to be grown on a pasture compared to a feeding lot which generally tends to make for healthier cows.
- Organic - While organic milk doesn’t change the vitamin or mineral content of the milk, it’s more about what you’re not getting. Dairy farmers can utilize antibiotics and hormones in order to increase the amount of dairy their cows produce. These hormones are generally fat-soluble, so that means we can potentially absorb them by consuming the fat in the milk. Buying organic milk ensures that the cows are not being treated with any hormones and you’re getting the cleanest version of the milk.
- Raw Milk - While not typically available in grocery stores, raw milk may be the healthiest option there is. Milk naturally contains a ton of probiotic bacteria among other enzymes that help to digest the milk in addition to improving gut health. When milk is pasteurized a majority of these proteins are broken down and no longer of use. Pasteurized milk became a necessity when dairy cows were brought to the city because we lacked the technology to transport milk. Poor living conditions and unsanitary environments led to poor quality milk with harmful bacteria and pasteurization provided a method of ensuring the milk did not contain any harmful bacteria. Raw milk from a high quality source can be extremely healthy!
If you want to take the next steps to reclaim your health look no further than the Thermo Diet Program. The Thermo Diet Program is our dietary program designed to teach you the key principles behind eating a diet to nourish your body with sufficient amounts of the vitamins & minerals it needs to thrive.
My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time… be good