For nearly 60 years, suspicion has been cast on dairy products because they contain saturated fat.

It started in 1953, when a researcher named Ancel Keys identified saturated fat as a major health concern. Using data from seven countries, he reported a relationship between fat and deaths from coronary heart disease. On Jan. 13, 1961, Keys was featured on the cover of TIME magazine.

Despite criticism from other scientists, the “fat-cholesterol” hypothesis took hold. It became conventional wisdom that eating saturated fat produces high blood cholesterol, which in turn causes heart disease.

Now, after years of getting a bad name because they contain saturated fat, animal products may finally be vindicated.   

Emerging research indicates that dairy fat isn’t harmful to heart health and may in fact be beneficial, points out registered dietitian Karen Giles-Smith in an article that ran on the Today’s Dietitian web site. To read the article, click here.

At the Cornell Nutrition Conference last week in Syracuse, N.Y., dairy scientist Dale Bauman noted the Today’s Dietitian article, saying it would help in the effort to put dairy fats in the proper light.

It won’t happen overnight, he said, “because we’ve had 50 years for this message (demonizing saturated fats in animal products) to become ingrained.”

Bauman said the events that occurred over the past 50-plus years, going back to Keys study, created a “perfect storm” that people are now starting to emerge from.