The Skinny on Diabetes and Dairy Fats

Could dairy be a new weapon in the war on diabetes?

A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) says trans-palmitoleate from dairy fat might be useful in preventing diabetes.

Bisbee Yoga Expo
Image Courtesy:

Diabetes means your blood glucose (GLOO-kos), also called blood sugar, is too high. Glucose comes from the food you eat and is needed to fuel our bodies. Glucose is also stored in our liver and muscles, according to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP).

The NDEP says more than 23.6 million people, almost 8 percent of the population, have diabetes.
About 186,300 young people under 20 years of age are battling the disease.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

A balanced diet is key to managing the illness.

Researchers in the AIM set out to discover if blood levels of trans-palmitoleate, a closely related fatty acid derived predominantly from whole-fat dairy products, might have beneficial health effects for people facing diabetes.
3736 men and women aged 65 years or older were interviewed about the foods they ate and blood samples were repeatedly taken to measure fatty acid levels (including trans-palmitoleate). Participants were evaluated annually for health problems.

What scientists found was a correlation between people who said they ate more whole-fat dairy products and higher levels of trans-palmitoleate in their blood 3 years later. Further, participants who had higher levels of trans-palmitoleate in their blood had better levels of chemicals associated with good health, such as certain types of cholesterol, and were less likely to have developed diabetes.
Researchers point out the blood levels of trans-palmitoleate measured several years later may have no longer been related to the types of foods participants originally reported eating.

Fatty acids come from animal and vegetable fats and oils. An essential fatty acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid needed by the body that is synthesized by plants but not by the human body and is a dietary requirement. Omega-3 fatty acids are a class of fatty acids found in fish oils, especially in salmon and other cold-water fish, that lowers the levels of cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) in the blood. Trans fats are made through hydrogenation to solidify liquid oils. They increase blood LDL "bad" cholesterol levels and raises the risk of coronary heart disease.

Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2009, only Colorado and the District of Columbia had an obesity rate less than 20%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the American Diabetes Association, Milk has a low glycemic index so choose lower-fat dairy products to fit into your meals.

    Fat-free or low-fat (1% milk)
    Plain non-fat yogurt
    non-fat light yogurt without added sugar
    unflavored soy milk

WebMD says common symptoms of diabetes include:

    Excessive thirst and appetite
    Increased urination (sometimes as often as every hour)
    Unusual weight loss or gain
    Nausea, perhaps vomiting
    Blurred vision
    In women, frequent vaginal infections
    In men and women, yeast infections
    Dry mouth
    Slow-healing sores or cuts
    Itching skin, especially in the groin or vaginal area

by Aimee Keenan-Greene