Will Whole Milk Make You Gain Weight?

Milk is one of the planet’s inherently healthful liquids, which is why it is frequently a mainstay in school lunches and a well-liked beverage among all age groups.

For everyone older than two years old, low fat dairy products have been the only ones suggested by nutrition standards for decades. However, in recent years, scientists have questioned the validity of this advice (1).

In fact, new research raises the possibility that skim milk isn’t always the most healthful option.

This article will examine how the many milk varieties compare in order to determine which is the best choice.

In the dairy section of most supermarkets, there are various varieties of milk that mostly vary in terms of fat content.

Because the quantity of fat in whole milk has not been changed, it is occasionally referred to as “normal milk.” Whole milk is rendered fat-free to create skim and 1% milk.

The amount of fat is expressed as a weighted percentage of the total amount of liquid. The fat content of certain common milk types is as follows:

  • 3.25% of whole milk’s milk fat
  • 1% milk fat in low-fat milk
  • less than 0.5% of milk is fat in skim.

The nutrients in 1 cup (237 mL) of many types of milk are listed in the following table: (2, 3, 4).

Milk with a higher fat content has more calories since fat has the highest calorie density of any nutrient per serving (5).

While the amount of micronutrients in each type of milk is generally comparable, the level of vitamin D may vary slightly. But since the majority of milk producers add vitamin D to milk, each type typically includes a similar quantity (6).

The quantity of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat associated with numerous health advantages, including enhanced heart and brain function as well as reduced inflammation, is another noteworthy nutritional variation between milk varieties. A cup of milk contains more omega-3 fatty acids the more fat it contains (7).

Furthermore, research has revealed that organic whole milk has significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional whole milk. However, “grass-fed milk, which is virtually always organic anyway, is where this distinction is most noticeable. Check to be sure you are purchasing grass-fed milk if you want more omega-3s per serving (8, 9, 10).

The amount of fat in each type of dairy milk is what distinguishes them most from one another. Compared to skim milk, whole milk has more calories and fat.

Nutritional advice has long advised against drinking whole milk, mostly because of its high level of saturated fat.

Limiting saturated fat is advised by mainstream nutritional guidelines since it can raise cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease (11).

Experts assumed that saturated fat must raise the risk of heart disease based on this findings. However, there was no experimental proof to support this (12, 13).

On the basis of this presumption that saturated fat and heart disease are related, public policy was adopted in the 1970s. As a result, official recommendations advised people to consume less saturated fat (12).

4.5 grams of saturated fat, or nearly 20% of the daily allowance suggested by the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are included in one cup (237 mL) of whole milk. Because of this, the recommendations urge sticking to low-fat or skim milk (4, 13).

This recommendation has been contested in recent years. New experimental evidence suggests that consuming moderate levels of saturated fat does not directly result in heart disease (14, 15).

Because of its high level of saturated fat, whole milk used to be stigmatized as unhealthy, although more recent research questions this notion.

Saturated fat can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet for people without high cholesterol levels or heart disease, even though they may need to heed their doctor’s advice and manage their intake.

In reality, numerous research indicate that consuming more saturated fat is not directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, or death from heart disease (16, 17, 18).

Initially, scientists thought that saturated fat raised cholesterol levels, which raised the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat and cholesterol have a far more nuanced relationship, though.

First off, while saturated fat does raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, it also raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which can actually help prevent heart disease (19, 20).

There are various forms of LDL, and the very small, dense particles of LDL are the ones that cause the most harm to the heart and arteries. Although saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels, it actually transforms LDL into giant, less dangerous particles from the small, dense particles (21, 22, 13).

Furthermore, according to other research, certain foods with a lot of saturated fat may have varying effects on heart health. For instance, an analysis revealed that red meat and butter were associated with a higher risk of heart disease whereas cheese and yogurt were actually linked to a lower risk (23).

This is why it’s crucial to take an ingredient’s total nutritional makeup into account rather than just concentrating on the specific elements it contains (24).

Saturated fat can still raise cholesterol levels in some people even if a lot of recent research questions the direct link between it and heart health. Therefore, those who have heart disease or high cholesterol levels may wish to think about substituting other ingredients for diets high in saturated fats.

Studies show that switching to whole grains or polyunsaturated fats—a type of lipid found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and seeds—instead of saturated fats may be good for long-term heart health (25, 26).

Studies currently demonstrate that moderate saturated fat consumption does not specifically raise the risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy persons, even if it is still vital to reduce your saturated fat intake if you are living with health issues like high cholesterol or heart disease. Additionally, different saturated fat-containing diets may have varying effects on heart health.

Before beginning a new diet, always discuss your unique health concerns with your doctor.

Because they believe the additional fat and calories will make them gain weight, many people refrain from consuming whole milk. Numerous studies, however, have indicated that ingesting high-fat dairy products may actually improve weight management.

Increased consumption of full-fat dairy products was associated with a decreased risk of weight gain during an 11-year period, according to a 2016 study including 18,438 women. On the other hand, there was no connection between consuming low-fat dairy and gaining weight (27).

Another 2017 study discovered that consuming dairy fat was not associated with an increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes (28).

Similar to this, a 2020 assessment of 29 research found no link between full-fat dairy consumption and child weight gain or fat gain (29).

For a number of years, milk and weight management have been the subject of studies, with varying degrees of success. However, the majority of these studies either focus on low-fat dairy or include all forms of dairy products (30, 31, 32).

Whole milk can be a great addition to a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet and may help you maintain a moderate weight, according to studies that only focus on high-fat dairy products, like whole milk. These findings suggest that there is a fairly consistent relationship between full-fat dairy and lower body weight.

There isn’t much proof that consuming whole milk instead of skim affects weight gain, while more research is needed in this area.

Will consuming whole milk make me gain weight?

Eating more calories than necessary—typically 250 to 500 extra daily—means gaining weight. This amounts to enough more calories over the course of the week to add between 0.5 and 1 pound of lean tissue and muscle.

Full-fat milk, a relatively high-calorie item, can assist you in achieving the advised calorie surplus. Two cups of whole milk every day, in addition to the food you need to maintain your weight, would result in a weekly weight increase of just over a half pound at 149 calories per cup. Consider drinking full-fat chocolate milk for an added calorie boost. With 208 calories per cup, adding two cups to your daily diet will provide you enough extra calories to gain one-fourth to one-fifth of a pound each week.

Can I still lose weight if I drink whole milk?

Based on presumptions, full-fat milk has a poor reputation Given that full-fat milk contains saturated fats, which are thought to cause heart disease by raising cholesterol levels, conventional nutrition guidelines that were developed about 1977 advised against consuming it. However, there is no scientific proof to back up this association. According to a review of 21 studies, there is no proof that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. Additionally, studies have established no link between dietary intake of saturated fat and heart attacks, strokes, etc. In reality, the data connecting dietary cholesterol with blood cholesterol is rather weak.

Full-fat milk is better for weight loss: Most people avoid full-fat milk because they think the fat and calories will make them gain weight. But contrary evidence is supported by research. In an analysis, 11 out of 16 research found a link between full-fat milk drinking and a decreased risk of becoming obese. Increased consumption of high-fat dairy products was linked to a decreased risk of weight gain, according to a major study including about 18,400 women.

Men who drink more high-fat dairy products have a 48% lower chance of acquiring abdominal obesity, whereas those who consume less high-fat dairy products have a 53% higher risk. This finding is especially important because abdominal obesity raises the chance of dying from heart disease more than total weight growth. For perimenopausal women, full-fat milk is beneficial.

Is drinking whole milk acceptable?

Whole milk may be associated with a reduced risk of a number of chronic illnesses, including:

  • metabolic disorder Drinking whole milk may reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a combination of risk factors that can raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to numerous studies (33, 34, 35).
  • diabetes type 2. In a significant study, those with the highest blood levels of fatty acids obtained from dairy had a 44% lower incidence of diabetes. However, more research is required because some other studies have revealed a possible link between full-fat and non-fermented dairy products and an increased risk of cancer (36, 37, 38).
  • Infertility. Although additional research is required, several studies indicate that milk consumption may increase women’s fertility and reproductive health (39).

It’s crucial to remember that numerous other elements, including daily nutrition, physical activity, and personal health history, all contribute to the emergence of chronic diseases. So, consuming whole milk is only a minor component of a much bigger picture.

Whole milk consumption as part of a healthy diet may actually have certain health advantages, such as a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome. More research is required, but it may also help women’s reproductive health and prevent type 2 diabetes.

For instance, skim milk may be a better option if you’re on a very low calorie diet because it has less calories but about the same amount of protein per cup (237 mL) (2, 4).

Skim milk is regarded as a nutrient-dense ingredient since it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals but only a little amount of calories.

In fact, skim milk, which contains about 325 mg of calcium per cup, is one of the foods with the highest calcium content. This has a calcium concentration of 306 mg per cup, which is much greater (2, 4).

It can also be an excellent way to enhance your consumption of a number of other crucial vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, phosphorus, and potassium (2).

While having fewer calories, skim milk has about the same amount of calcium and protein as full milk.

Even though many government standards have long advised against drinking whole milk, it may be a fantastic addition to a diet that focuses on providing nutrients.

Whole milk was criticized for a number of reasons, including its high level of saturated fat, which was once directly linked to problems like heart disease.

New research, however, casts doubt on this clear link. People without heart disease or high cholesterol may be able to consume modest amounts of saturated fat without it having an adverse effect on their general health, but those who already have these illnesses should heed their doctor’s advise and limit their intake.

Discuss your individual medical history with your doctor to determine the best way to consume saturated fats for you.

Just one thing

Try it out now: Blending whole milk into smoothies is a simple way to consume it. For a tasty and healthy snack, try blending whole milk with your favorite fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens.

Is whole milk bad for you?

Because it contains more saturated fat and may cause cholesterol to rise, whole milk has a negative image. LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” and HDL, the “good cholesterol,” are the two different types of cholesterol. Your LDL increases greater when you consume whole milk than when you consume skim milk.

Some people are confused about the effect of milk and other dairy foods on weight. Evidence shows that these foods have a neutral or positive effect on body weight.

Fat has been blamed most frequently in recent years for expanding waistlines, related diseases, and deaths all across the world. We now understand that this is untrue.

The development of low- and no-fat dairy products has strengthened the notion that dairy foods contribute to weight gain.

However, studies suggest that including enough milk, yoghurt, and cheese in a healthy diet does not increase the risk of weight gain.

According to research, eating at least three serves of milk, yoghurt, or cheese per day when trying to lose weight through calorie restriction can help people do so more effectively than those who consume fewer dairy products.

This is because dairy foods contain a variety of nutrients, and consuming complete foods as part of a balanced diet results in complicated nutrient interactions.

Both regular and reduced-fat dairy products should be consumed for optimal health, and regardless of their fat content, neither is associated with overweight or obesity.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines advise limiting junk food, limiting portion sizes, and finding methods to be more active throughout the day in order to maintain a healthy weight.