April 22 02:22 AM

Milk does a body good, fat included

June 23, 2010

It's a loaded word, particularly when weighed down by the variations in food product labeling, advertisements and diet plans consumers encounter in daily life.

When emphasis is placed on low-fat foods, dairy, especially, gets a bad reputation. According to Michigan State University's Adam Lock, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, that stigma is not justified

"We've grown up being told that dietary fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for you, but milk is one of the most nutrient-dense foods we have in our diet," he said.

"Dairy products are excellent sources of protein and calcium, and they have lots of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Dairy contains nine essential nutrients that our bodies need."

Lock's research focuses on dairy cow nutrition and its effects on human health, particularly the development of fatty acids in cows' stomachs.

Although dairy products contain saturated fat, Lock said that the types of fatty acids in milk raise low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), and they end up canceling each other out.

And, Lock said, less fat isn't always better.

The benefits of some of these fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins are lost when the fat is skimmed from dairy, he noted. Children, especially, should be getting the nutrients of whole dairy.

"My son drinks whole milk because that's the best nutrient package you can get in dairy because of all the different nutrients it contains," he said.

"For growing children and teenagers, dairy products are, in my mind, a significant contribution to the diet."

Lock added that many adults dislike the taste of low-fat dairy and turn away from dairy all together.

"It's the fat in a lot of dairy products that have a nice flavor. It will make you feel full and happy," he said.

Not all choices are created equal, Lock said.

"A 150-calorie glass of whole milk and a 150-calorie glass of soda are not the same. Nutritionally speaking, the milk is better for you, because it supplies you with essential vitamins and minerals," he said.

When approaching dairy consumption, consumers shouldn't be scared off by high fat or calories, Lock said.

"The biggest thing you need to do is look at the whole diet, the dietary intake. You need to make sure you get enough of all the nutrients that you need, without consuming too many calories," he said.

Lock has published numerous peer-reviewed research papers on dairy cow nutrition and has received several honors and awards. He belongs to the American Nutrition Society, the American Dairy Science Association, the British Society of Animal Science and the International Dairy Federation.

Before coming to MSU, Lock was an assistant professor at the University of Vermont and a research associate at Cornell University and the University of Nottingham, where he earned his doctoral degree.

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