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Doc: Fat removed from milk mechanically, not chemically

Keith Roach To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I’ve been told by a nutritionist that fat-free milk isn’t good for us and that it’s better to use whole milk, even if restricting some fats from your diet, which we are doing. This person said that the process used to take fat out of milk is laced with many chemicals that make it harmful. I drink a cup a day, along with other sources, for the calcium and vitamin D.

Would you please clarify this for me?

D.L.

Dear D.L.: I often read multiple opinions on health benefits and risks of foods, and sometimes one is completely opposite of another. When that happens, it’s usually because the science is unclear.

Milk contains protein, natural sugars and fat, along with natural calcium. The difference between whole, low-fat and fat-free has to do with the amount of milk fat, which is separated mechanically. Apart from vitamins A and D, chemicals are not added during the processing of milk.

Most experts believe, and most of the data supports, that large amounts of saturated fat contribute to the development of coronary heart disease. Milk contains about 65 percent saturated fat, and so avoiding excess fat makes sense. However, without fat, milk is sugar and a little protein, and sugar is being increasingly recognized itself as contributing to heart disease and other health problems.

My opinion is that milk, in any form, should be consumed in reasonable amounts, and that either skim or low-fat milk is probably less likely to contribute to heart disease than whole. At one cup a day, you should drink whatever milk you prefer.

Dear Dr. Roach: You recently wrote about prunes and prune juice for constipation. Does it matter whether you take it at night or in the morning?

P.K.

Dear P.K.: No. Whatever works best for you. Some people with faster digestive processes may find that they have to wake up to go to the bathroom if they take it at night, but for most people either way is fine.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.