New Dietary Guidelines Could Put Whole Milk Back on the Menu

New slate of dietary guidelines expected this December.

— -- New dietary guidelines expected this winter have many wondering if new research will lead to changes in recommendations on saturated fats, especially for those looking to switch from low-fat milk to whole milk.

The possible changes have already grabbed headlines, with the Washington Post examining how the government previously steered people to switch from whole milk to low-fat dairy options, and questioning the health effects of a low-fat diet.

Americans currently are advised to avoid diets high in saturated fats and to “replace higher fat milk and milk products with lower fat options,” according to current federal guidelines.

However, research in recent years has pointed out that as people decreased eating saturated fats, they turned to carbs and sugars to replace their calories. Should the guidelines change so that whole fat milk is recommended, it would join other recent major changes in diet advice, including recommendations on most high-cholesterol foods.

These changes can be frustrating to people trying to follow the most current advice on how to eat healthy, but experts noted that overall diet recommendations have remained stable.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, said today during the House Committee on Agriculture’s hearing on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that he heard from his constituents that they are frustrated by changes and that they don’t trust that the new recommendations are the correct choice.

“Most of them don’t believe this stuff anymore,” said Peterson, the ranking member of the committee. “They are flat out ignoring this stuff ... from what I’m hearing from my constituents.”

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell emphasized that many of the key guidelines will likely stay the same.

“The key elements that make up a healthy lifestyle remain consistent,” she said. “Fruits and vegetables, grains and lean proteins and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium -- we anticipate that these will continue to be the building blocks of the 2015 guidelines.”

The guidelines will likely continue to be tweaked as more research is done and as officials course-correct after seeing how past advice was taken, experts said.

“The basic tenets of food and nutrition and diets ... [is] moderation and balance and variety,” explained with Janet Kramer, a registered dietitian at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. “That hasn’t changed.”

Kramer said it’s important that people approach food in a holistic way so they don’t shun one ingredient only to eat an excess of another that can also lead to health issues.

“I don’t know if it’s a human trait or if it’s part of our American culture -- we like to vilify something and then go overboard,” Kramer said.

By focusing on a single ingredient like saturated fats, the industry replaced fat with high-sugar foods, which likely contributed to rising obesity levels, Kramer said.

“They added sugar and now we’re a sugar-addicted nation and [it] is fueling the obesity [epidemic]," Kramer said. “It’s like changing the course of the Titanic -- it doesn’t happen that quickly.”

Whole milk and fats have a place in a healthy diet, Kramer said, and children especially can benefit from whole milk.

“There is a role for fats in the diet in general and in whole milk,” he said. “Fat in general is the vehicle for all the fat-soluble vitamins for A, D, K and E.”