HIGH-FAT dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes (T2D) by up to 20% when consumed regularly, whereas a high meat intake is linked to a higher risk of the disease, according to a new study.
Swedish researchers presented the findings after analysing the eating habits of 27,000 individuals aged 45-74 years who took part in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study during the early 1990s, in which the participants provided details of their food intake. The team discovered that 20 years later, >10% of those people had developed T2D, with those who regularly ate high-fat dairy products being significantly less likely to develop the condition than those who did not.
“Those who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 23% lower risk of developing T2D than those who ate the least. High meat consumption was linked to an increased risk of T2D regardless of the fat content of the meat,” said Dr Ulrika Ericson, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Genetic Epidemiology Unit, Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden, who conducted the study.
The results support previous research that has indicated a link between a large consumption of dairy products and a reduced risk of T2D, although the new study uniquely indicates that it is specifically high-fat dairy products, like cheese, that are associated with this reduced risk.
Although both meat and dairy products contain saturated fat, there is a greater incidence of certain saturated fatty acids in high-fat dairy products, which appear to protect against the development of diabetes.
The study therefore suggests that the focus for a healthy diet should not be on merely reducing fat, which has some positive aspects, but rather on observing the benefits and drawbacks of various types of food in order to ensure a properly balanced diet.
“Our results suggest that we should not focus solely on fat, but rather consider what foods we eat. Many foodstuffs contain different components that are harmful or beneficial to health, and it is the overall balance that is important,” concluded Dr Ericson.