Dairy May Cut Diabetes Risk

We all know how good dairy is for bone health and that it can play a positive role in fat-loss, but now scientists believe that dairy may play another positive role in our health: reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers have identified a natural substance in dairy fat that may substantially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The compound, called trans-palmitoleic acid, is a fatty acid that is found in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. It is not produced by the body and can only come from your diet.

Right now, you’re probably confused. After all, nutrition and health professionals have been telling us to choose low-fat dairy for years, right? Well according to the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, dairy fat is different in its make-up than other industrially produced trans fats found that are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been linked to higher risk of heart disease. On the other hand, trans-palmitoleic acid is almost exclusively found in naturally-occurring dairy and meat trans fats, which in prior studies have not been linked to higher heart disease risk, according to the study.

Researchers looked at 3,736 participants who had been followed for 20 years in an observational study to evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in older adults. They found that in this group, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels and insulin sensitivity, after adjustment for other risk factors. This is the first study to look at the relationship between trans-palmitoleic acid and diabetes, and researchers say more research is needed to better understand the role the fatty acid plays on diabetes.

How does this research affect you? While I don’t think there’s enough research to swap all of your low-fat diary products for full-fat versions (especially if you’re trying to lose weight and are cutting calories, as low-fat diary products have fewer calories), it does make eating that full-fat cheese on occasion a bit easier to swallow, doesn’t it?

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