Diabetes risk reduced by high-fat dairy products, study
Consumption of high-fat yoghurt and cheese are linked to a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as a fifth, according to new research from Lund University in Sweden. High meat consumption, on the other hand, is linked to a higher risk.
The researchers said their findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April 2015, were in line with previous studies of eating habits that indicated a link between high consumption of dairy products and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the new study indicated that it was high-fat dairy products specifically that were associated with reduced risk.
“Those who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 23 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least,” said Dr Ulrika Ericson, who conducted the study. “High meat consumption was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes regardless of the fat content of the meat”, she said.
The researchers studied the eating habits of 27 000 individuals aged 45 to 74. The participants took part in the Malmö Diet and Cancer study in the early 1990s, in which they provided details of their eating habits. Twenty years on, over ten per cent – 2 860 people – had developed type 2 diabetes.
The researchers said the aim of the study was to clarify the significance of fat in food for the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Instead of focusing on the total intake of saturated fat, the researchers looked at different sources of saturated fat.
Other components of dairy products may be key
Both meat and dairy products contain saturated fat, but certain saturated fatty acids are particularly common in dairy products. This difference could be one of the reasons why most studies show that those who eat meat are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas those who eat a lot of dairy products appear to have a lower risk.
“When we investigated the consumption of saturated fatty acids that are slightly more common in dairy products than in meat, we observed a link with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes,” Dr Ericson said. “However, we have not ruled out the possibility that other components of dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese may have contributed to our results,” she said.
Dr Ericson said the team of researchers took into account many dietary and lifestyle factors in their analysis, such as fermentation, calcium, vitamin D and physical activity. However, she said there may be other factors that they had not been able to measure that are shared by those who eat large quantities of high-fat dairy products.
Whole diet important
Dr Ericson said it was also important to remember that “different food components can interact with each other”.
“For example, in one study, saturated fat in cheese appeared to have less of a cholesterol-raising effect than saturated fat in butter,” Dr Ericson said.
“Our results suggest that we should not focus solely on fat, but rather consider what foods we eat,” Dr Ericson said. “Many foodstuffs contain different components that are harmful or beneficial to health, and it is the overall balance that is important,” she said.