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Many ad campaigns extol a low-fat diet, and the current federal dietary guidelines recommend choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products, but research continues to show the benefits of full-fat dairy. 

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tracked 2,907 adults age 65 and older over a 22-year period and found that consuming full-fat dairy products was not associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Researchers reported no connection between biomarkers of fatty acids in dairy fat and heart disease or all-cause mortality; but they discovered that one specific fatty acid actually contributed to reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. 

The findings indicate that individuals with higher fatty-acid levels — which suggested higher consumption of whole-fat dairy products — had a 42 percent lower rate of death from stroke compared with those with low levels.

“Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats,” says lead study author Marcia Otto, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. “It’s therefore important to have robust studies so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay.”

Otto also noted that low-fat foods, such as yogurt, often include large amounts of added sugars to improve palatability, which may contribute to poor cardiovascular and metabolic health.

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