Diet, Dairy And Diabetes: A Possible Link

It should be a rather obvious statement, but you are what you eat; those who subsist on a diet of junk food are effectively sabotaging their long-term health. Conversely, people who adhere to nutritional diets tend to enjoy healthier lives. But suppose high-fat dairy foods could actually be useful in protecting against a very serious condition – type 2 diabetes?

Around the World

This finding comes courtesy of a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. This report cast a rather wide net, reviewing data submitted from over 60,000 people. These individuals were divided into 16 separate cohorts scattered across the globe, and were participants in the Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium.

Over a twenty year period, the study authors noted that nearly a quarter (23.8%) of their participants developed type 2 diabetes. However, they further noted that those with high levels of three types of fatty acids – pentadecanoic acid, heptadecanoic acid and trans-palmitoleic acid – were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with this condition. Specifically, their diabetes risk was 35 percent lower than participants with lower levels of these three fats.

Worth a Second Look?

So what do these conclusions mean for shoppers? After all, aren’t high-fat dairy foods supposed to be rather unhealthy? Dariush Mozaffarian M.D., the study’s senior author, acknowledged that “while dairy foods are recommended as part of a healthy diet, US and international guidelines generally recommend low-fat or non-fat dairy due to concerns about adverse effects of higher calories or saturated fat.” However, Mozaffarian also noted that the report’s findings “suggest a need to re-examine the potential metabolic benefits of dairy fat or foods rich in dairy fat, such as cheese.”

In response to the study, the website Medscape Medical News emailed Robert H. Eckel, MD, a faculty member at the University of Colorado, Aurora. When asked how the study should impact the dietary choices of American consumers, Eckel stated the following: “Epidemiology is epidemiology. No changes in a heart-/diabetes-/cancer-healthy lifestyle are recommended until more science affirms this relationship [between high-fat dairy foods and lower risk of type 2 diabetes].” Eckel further stated that “It’s not ‘good foods’ or ‘bad foods’, it’s the overall diet.”

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