Yogurt Is Not a Health Food, No Matter How You Spin It

Nov 12, 2018

Dear Ms. Calderone:

We would like to address your article, “Is Whole-Milk Yogurt a Whole Lot Better?,” published in Consumer Reports on June 22, 2017. We applaud your attempt to remain neutral, and although your writing does not come off as a resounding yogurt endorsement, we do feel certain aspects may be misleading to your readers.

In today’s fast-paced news cycle, many consumers rely on headlines and bylines to educate themselves. Some may read the first paragraph or two, and perhaps even scroll through the subheadings, and this is where they may be misled by your article. A cursory glance gives off the impression that full-fat dairy is healthy, which is contradictory to an overwhelming body of scientific evidence.

One of the studies referenced in the article, “Patterns of Dairy Food Intake…” which is used to support the health benefits of whole-fat yogurt, is both biased and flawed. The research was backed by multiple pro-dairy partners, including Enterprise Ireland (EI) and Food for Health Ireland (FHI). According to its website, EI’s industry partners list numerous food ingredient operations that support the nation’s dairy industry, such as the Irish Dairy Board, Kerry Group plc, and Dairygold Food Ingredients, just to name a few. Further, The FHI website clearly states, “FHI’s objective is to identify milk-derived food ingredients with potential health benefits – thus creating new intellectual capital and enabling the industry members to develop new products for sale globally.” The study’s researchers linked higher consumption of dairy to lower body mass, smaller waists, and lower blood pressure, but the pressure from these pro-dairy organizations calls in to question the objectivity of these results.

Looking at the study itself, we also question the conclusion based on the research methods. When collecting measurements, researchers adjusted for variables such as energy (calorie) intake, BMI, and percent energy from saturated fatty acids. However, this adjustment skews the results, as energy intake is the most influential modifiable factor for an individual’s BMI and other anthropomorphic outcomes explored in the study. In essence, it is entirely possible that those who ate more butter and other calorically dense dairy products consumed more calories, leading to a higher BMI and waist circumference. The researchers did not include any raw data however, making it impossible to explore this relationship. There is no “before” snapshot, only an “after.”

Further, researchers suggested that the consumption of high-fat dairy led to improved health, and even linked the consumption of low-fat dairy to adverse health markers, such as an increased level of triglycerides. However, participants who consumed mostly low-fat dairy products also consumed 25 – 40 percent more total milk per unit of energy than the high-fat dairy consumers. The increased consumption of dairy may have led to these unfavorable results – not the fat content.

Finally, the authors note that more research is needed to confirm the link between dairy and health. At Switch4Good, we have collected multiple unbiased studies and consulted with medical and scientific professionals who refute dairy as a health food. In fact, it can be quite the opposite.

In light of this information, we ask that you amend the title and subheading of your article to more accurately reflect the inconclusive notion of dairy as a health food. We noticed on your website that you enjoy reporting on food fads, and we hope you see this as an opportunity to tell the truth about the full-fat dairy fad, rather than perpetuate the trend.

To learn more about the true health effects of dairy, we invite you to explore switch4good.org.

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