Got Milk? Good. Dairy Products Can Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Cutting back on dairy products was the medical advice of the last two decades. It was recommended to stave off everything from extra pounds to coronary heart disease. But recently, researchers are finding that maybe it was not such hot advice - not for losing weight, not for heart disease, and now... not for those at risk for diabetes.
Using the data from 3,736 persons in the Cardiovascular Health Study, who had been followed for 20 years, a team from the Harvard School of Public Health found how many of the subjects developed type 2 diabetes during that period. Using dietary information, stored in 1989, and blood samples stored in 1992, the researchers tracked the blood cholesterol, insulin, and fatty acid levels of those who had developed diabetes and those who did not.
The researchers found that the participants who consumed high levels of a fatty acid from dairy, called trans-palmitoleic acid - were at lower risk of heart disease, overweight, and diabetes during the 20 year study. Trans-palmitoleic acid, unlike the fatty acid our bodies manufacture (cis-palmitoleic acid), is not diminished by the presence of carbohydrates in our bodies. In fact, the participants with the highest levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were at three times less risk than those with the lowest amounts of the acid in their blood samples.
Trans-palmitoleic acid is a naturally occurring trans-fat found in butter, milk, and cheese. It should not be confused with manufactured trans-fat used in vegetable oil and other processed foods, which have been linked to high risk for heart disease.
Though more research is needed, particularly clinical trials, other studies have already indicated that dairy products are beneficial for weight loss and being overweight is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Dairy products have also been shown to be beneficial in reducing hypertension, and high blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease.
Besides, in animals, their natural cis-palmitoleic acid protects them from diabetes, and it is just possible that the trans-palmitoleic acid we drink or eat is fulfilling that biological role for humans.
This study was reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
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