Diabetes Prevention: Why Butter, Cheese, Whole Milk Help

Got milk? If so, you might not get diabetes. Or so suggests a recent study that examined the intake of trans-palmitoleic acid (TPA) and the development of type 2 diabetes. TPA is a fatty acid that is not produced naturally in the human body, but can be obtained from dairy products.

In the study, participants who had higher levels of TPA had more favorable measures on several health parameters including a better cholesterol profile, lower insulin resistance and incidence of diabetes, and lower levels of inflammation. Because TPA is a fatty acid, it stands to reason that consumption of dairy products that were higher in fat would lead to higher blood TPA levels. The participants with the highest TPA levels consumed two or more servings of whole fat dairy per day. Consumption of whole milk had the strongest correlation with TPA levels, followed by butter, 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream.

Are you telling me ice cream is healthy?

While several studies have reported an association among dairy consumption and decreased risk for obesity, metabolic risk factors and diabetes, these studies have not accounted for different kinds of dairy foods. It is important to note that in this study, the participants with higher TPA levels also had lower BMIs and smaller waist circumferences, which may be attributable to other lifestyle factors such as exercise or other dietary choices.

So what’s the bottom line?

Eating a pint of ice cream is not going to stave off diabetes or heart disease if you are at risk for these diseases. Whole milk dairy products may be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, if you have high cholesterol, are overweight, or have other metabolic risk factors, you’ll want to limit your intake of high fat dairy like cheese, butter and cream as these items are high in calories and saturated fat. The key here is the fatty acid  TPA and encouraging research such as this will lead to more understanding of diabetes and its prevention.

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