December 23, 2010
Milk Fat Linked To Lower Type 2 Diabetes Incidence

Here's yet another in a series of reports about how Deep Fat is not a health problem. The latest? Supposedly evil milk fat that we've all been taught to avoid might be good for us. Pass me the butter. Turns out a fatty acid in milk fat is associated with a substantially lower risk of type 2 insulin resistant diabetes. This study does not provide direction of causation but is highly suggestive.

Boston, MA – Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and collaborators from other institutions have identified a natural substance in dairy fat that may substantially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The compound, trans-palmitoleic acid, is a fatty acid found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. It is not produced by the body and so only comes from the diet.

In the United States almost almost a quarter of those over 60 years old have type 2 insulin resistant diabetes. Since type 2 diabetes accelerates the body's aging and shortens life expectancy ways to avoid it can make a big difference in longevity.

Conventional wisdom is to avoid full-fat dairy products. Could conventional wisdom be wrong?

Reporting in the December 21, 2010, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, investigators led by Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH and Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism and chair of the Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases at HSPH, explain that trans-palmitoleic acid may underlie epidemiological evidence in recent years that diets rich in dairy foods are linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes and related metabolic abnormalities.  Health experts generally advise reducing full-fat dairy products, but trans-palmitoleic acid is found in dairy fat.

Many blood health indicators look better in people with high trans-palmitoleic acid.

The HSPH researchers examined 3,736 participants in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded Cardiovascular Health Study, who have been followed for 20 years in an observational study to evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in older adults. Metabolic risk factors such as blood glucose and insulin levels, and also levels of circulating blood fatty acids, including trans-palmitoleic acid, were measured using stored blood samples in 1992, and participants were followed for development of type 2 diabetes.

At baseline, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity, after adjustment for other risk factors. During follow-up, individuals with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a much lower risk of developing diabetes, with about a 60% lower risk among participants in the highest quintile (fifth) of trans-palmitoleic acid levels, compared to individuals in the lowest quintile.

What's next? Steak for heart disease treatment? Pork to fight cancer?

Seriously though, what factors influence trans-palmitoleic acid levels in milk? Does range fed milk have more? Or goat's milk? Anyone know about what influences its concentration in milk?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 23 10:23 PM  Aging Diet Metabolism

PacRim Jim said at December 24, 2010 1:17 AM:

These wild swings of dietary recommendations indicate that we are far from understanding the complexity of the system of systems that is the human body.
Not only are we ignorant of its overall functioning, but we are unfamiliar with details of 7 billion individual human bodies.
Maybe by the end of the 21st century. In other words, too late to be of use to us.
By then, maybe there will be a standardized genome, simplifying understanding but complicating everything else.

Lou Pagnucco said at December 24, 2010 9:29 AM:

Here is something for those who enjoy cognitive dissonance -

Eating Healthier Means Living Longer - Press Release - J.American Dietetic Assoc. - December 22, 2010

[START]In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers investigated empirical data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between theages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods wereassociated with reduced mortality....researchers were able to group the participants into six different clusters according to predominant food choices:

"Healthy foods" (374 participants) / "High-fat dairy products" (332) / "Meat, fried foods, and alcohol" (693)
"Breakfast cereal" (386) / "Refined grains" (458) / "Sweets and desserts" (339)

The "Healthy foods" cluster was characterized by relatively higher intake of low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. The "High fat dairy products" cluster had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2% and whole milk and yogurt, and lower intake of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice, and pasta....After controlling for gender,age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the "High-fat dairy products" cluster had a 40% higher risk of mortality than the "Healthy foods" cluster[END]

Does national and international demographic data support the hypothesis that dairy consumption is inversely related to type-2 diabetes incidence? -- or is it just this one fat that is beneficial? -- is this fat more concentrated in low-fat dairy products?

muhr said at December 24, 2010 11:27 AM:

the trans configuration is due to bacterial metabolism in the cow gut.

Ian Macmillan said at December 24, 2010 6:36 PM:

First bad, then good. Heh. But what is the incidence of type 2 diabetes in S.E.Asia, where people generally don't take milk products, versus say France, where they eat lots of cream, butter and cheese?

Joseph Hertzlinger said at December 26, 2010 7:12 PM:

I have diabetic relatives and low cholesterol. I'm not sure what I'll have for breakfast tomorrow, but it will include butter.

Lloyd said at January 16, 2011 2:47 AM:

Hi Randall,

long time lurker, been through all of the archives- great set up here!

The role of Vitamin D is very important for us, fats as well, cholesterol too- perhaps you are familiar with this organization? Weston A. Price?

There is an entire history of vitamin K2, fats in the diet, importance of vitamin D, A, E, etc. They do not only advocate eating traditionally, but also explain why with a systematic view.

One can then begin to understand that our health trends of the last 100 years have been created by food, grain, wheat processers and their subsequent lobbying power.

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