Among people who had higher biomarkers of dairy fat consumption, the risk of type 2 diabetes was 30% lower compared with people who ate low amounts of dairy fat.
Even though the findings are only associational, they follow a long line of studies evidencing how eating healthy fats is beneficial for our metabolic health.
Full fat dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese contain several healthy fatty acids, and research has shown these can improve heart health. Eating full fat is additionally beneficial when one considers that low fat dairy products tend to contain more sugar.
A team of US and UK researchers studied more than 60,000 adults in the FORCE Consortium trial, which was established to examine the relationships between fatty acid biomarkers and disease.
None of the participants had type 2 diabetes before the analysis. Over a 20-year follow-up period, just over 15,000 went on to develop type 2.
The findings showed that higher concentrations of dairy fat biomarkers were associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk. This association remained independent of age, sex, obesity and other factors which influence type 2 risk.
Specifically, people among the top fifth of the concentrations of dairy fat markers had an approximately 30% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those in the bottom fifth.
“Our results provide the most comprehensive global evidence to date about dairy fat biomarkers and their relationship with lower risk of type 2 diabetes,” said lead author Dr. Fumiaki Imamura from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.
“We’re aware that our biomarker work has limitations and requires further research on underlying mechanisms, but at the very least, the available evidence about dairy fat does not indicate any increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.”
The researchers were not able to distinguish between different types of dairy foods as to which had the most beneficial effects. They also stressed that further research should be conducted in diverse populations to compare food preparation methods.
The results have been published in PLOS Medicine.
Editor’s note: Eating healthy fats and real foods is a fundamental practice of our award-winning Low Carb Program. After one year of completing the programme people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes sustainably lose an average of 7kg at 1-year.