Fit and Skim: Low-Fat Dairy

It may have a slim profile, but low-fat dairy packs a nutritional punch that's good for the heart, kidneys and much more, recent studies show. Industry observers say the findings could help promote low- or no-fat dairy products, and undo some of the misperceptions that still plague many products. A lot of people think that if you take the fat out of milk, you're also taking out the nutrients, and

It may have a slim profile, but low-fat dairy packs a nutritional punch that's good for the heart, kidneys and much more, recent studies show. Industry observers say the findings could help promote low- or no-fat dairy products, and undo some of the misperceptions that still plague many products.

“A lot of people think that if you take the fat out of milk, you're also taking out the nutrients, and that's just not the case at all,” said Lori Hoolihan, nutrition research specialist with the California Dairy Council.

One study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that low-fat dairy products have the ability to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with kidney problems. Another, conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, recommended that children supplement their diets with low-fat dairy to maintain healthy bone growth.

Overall sales of whole milk are double those of low-fat and fat-free milk combined, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. That gap is narrowing, however: Whole milk sales were down 4% in May, while low-fat and fat-free milk grew by 3%. The ratio could narrow even further, if more consumers catch on to the facts about low fat.