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Diabetes Health Center

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Dairy Fat May Lower Diabetes Risk

New Research Suggests That a Fat Found Primarily in Dairy Foods May Lower Diabetes Risk

Advice to Limit Dairy Fat Still Stands

In a news release, study co-author Gokhan Hotamisligil, MD, PhD, notes that the next step will be to isolate the fatty acid to test its ability to lower diabetes risk in clinical trials.

“This is an extremely strong protective effect, stronger than other things we know can be beneficial against diabetes,” Hotamisligil says in the release.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) makes a clear distinction between healthy fats and unhealthy fats, and, not surprisingly, dairy fat falls into the latter category.

On its web site, the ADA recommends limiting saturated and trans fats, and the group identifies full-fat cheese, ice cream, butter, whole milk, and 2% milk as foods to be limited by people with diabetes to lower their risk for heart disease.

“Instead of one cheese stick for an afternoon snack, have 12 almonds,” the ADA advises in its web site. “The calories are about the same, but you will have improved your heart health with that single change.”

Nutritionist Marion Franz, MS, RD, who serves on the ADA nutrition task force, calls the Harvard findings "interesting early research" but says the recommendation to limit dairy fat is still a good one.

“This is an observational study that suggests a direction research should go in,” she says. “But we have seen these studies before suggesting that a single micronutrient or food is protective and little has come of it.”

She says the link between eating saturated fats and heart disease is well established. Several studies have also linked saturated and total fat consumption to insulin resistance and diabetes.

“It is true that some studies have shown benefits for dairy foods in diabetes, but other studies show the same thing for the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts but low in dairy,” she says.

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