Washington: Scientists have discovered 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.
Investigators at the Harvard School of Public Health and collaborators from other institutions 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.
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.
During follow-up, individuals with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a much lower risk of developing diabetes compared to individuals in the lowest quintile.
The study appeared in the December 21, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.