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BYU senior Riley Creer, studying mechanical engineering, drinks milk outside of the Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Trading in 2% for lower-fat milk could lead to cells appearing younger, according to a study from Brigham Young University.

“The differences were not minute,” said Larry Tucker, a professor in the College of Life Sciences at BYU.

Tucker is the sole author of “Milk Fat Intake and Telomere Length in U.S. Women and Men: The Role of Milk Fat Fraction,” published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. The study sampled 5,834 adults in the nation to identify what type of milk they drank, how often they drank it and how long their telomeres are.

Telomeres, which cap off chromosomes, are used to essentially identify how young cells appear.

“A simple analogy is that telomeres function like the caps that protect the ends of shoe laces,” the study reads. “Over time, as cells divide, telomeres become progressively and predictably shorter.”

People with shorter telomeres tend to have more chronic diseases than those who have longer ones, according to the paper.

The research found that adults who drink full-fat or 2% milk have significantly shorter telomeres than adults who drink nonfat or 1% milk. That relationship between the fat content of milk and the length of someone’s telomeres was the strongest among adults who drink milk at least once a day.

Tucker said milk adds a lot of calories to diets. He’s not surprised by the results.

“There is amazing differences in the saturated fat content between whole fat milk and skim milk,” he said.

Tucker, who said he eats his cereal with skim milk, said people can be deceived by milk because they don’t realize its fat percentage is calculated by weight, not by calories. While milk may be 2% fat by weight, he said, it could be about 36% fat in relation to calories.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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