Healthy living

Dairy foods may help prevent diabetes

Dairy foods may help prevent diabetes Natural fatty acid may protect against disease

A natural substance found in dairy foods may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to new research

The compound, called trans-palmitoleic acid, is a type of fatty acid found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. It is not produced by the body and only comes from the foods we eat.

Some 2.3 million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes and another half a million are thought to have the condition but don't know it.

Although past research has suggested that diets rich in dairy foods are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, the reason for this is unclear.

In the study, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health tracked 3,736 volunteers over 20 years who were already taking part in a heart disease study.

Blood glucose, insulin levels and circulating blood fatty acids were measured.

The findings showed that people with higher levels of trans-palmitoleic acid in their blood had a much lower risk of developing diabetes. Those with the highest levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a 60 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those with the lowest.

Higher levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were also associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity.

Professor Dariush Mozaffarian, who led the study, described the difference in results as "striking."

"This represents an almost three-fold difference in risk of developing diabetes among individuals with the highest blood levels of this fatty acid," he said.

This article was published on Tue 21 December 2010

Image © Marin Conic -

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