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Skim or Whole Milk?

How do you interpret a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which showed that switching from four glasses of whole milk a day to the same amount of skim milk lowers blood cholesterol levels?

The dairy industry tells you that it means that skim milk lowers cholesterol. But that's not what the study shows. It shows that drinking four glasses of whole milk a day raises cholesterol. A healthful diet is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Four glasses of whole milk contain 150 mg of cholesterol, half the recommended daily limit. Drinking four glasses of milk a day exceeds the recommended limit of cholesterol if you eat one egg, or an eight-ounce steak. Four glasses of milk contains eight grams of saturated fat, right near the upper limit, meaning that you have to restrict all other sources of saturated fats, including meat, chicken, eggs, and so forth.

Why does drinking four glasses of whole milk a day raise blood cholesterol levels while eating two eggs a day does not? Two eggs contain four times as much cholesterol (450 mg) as four glasses of whole milk (100 mg). But the eggs contain only 1/3rd as much fat and 1/4 as much saturated fat. Two eggs contain 12 grams of fat, while four glasses of whole milk contain 35 grams. Dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels, but dietary fat, particularly saturated fat raises it much more. This study does not show that you can eat an unlimited number of eggs. It shows that the four grams of saturated fat in two eggs does not raise cholesterol as much as the 18 grams in four glasses of whole milk. If you want to lower high blood cholesterol levels, try to restrict all fats, particularly saturated fats found in meats and dairy products made from whole milk.

K Steinmetz, MT Childs, C Stimson, LH Kushi, PG Mcgovern, JD Potter, WK Yamanaka. Effect of Consumption of Whole Milk and Skim Milk on Blood Lipid Profiles in Healthy Men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1994(Mar);59(3):612-618

Checked 9/3/11

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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