For many years, health experts have said that skim and low-fat dairy products–like milk, cheese and yogurt–are better for you than the full-fat versions. Some nutrition researchers believe that this is especially true for people who are overweight, obese, or at risk for type 2 diabetes.
However, research presented at a recent meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Austria showed that high fat dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, butter and cream might actually be very effective at preventing diabetes. This may even be true for other metabolic diseases. And, it’s not the only recent study to show this.
The new research
The study presented at EASD followed almost 27,000 people (between the ages of 45 and 74) for 14 years. Researchers found that those who reported eating 8 or more servings of full-fat milk products every day were 23% less likely to get type 2 diabetes. Some types of dairy had a bigger effect than others. For example, 2 tablespoons of cream each day was connected to a 15% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. And, about 1 cup of whole, fermented dairy each day was connected to a 20% lower risk. Fermented (or “cultured”) dairy can include:
- Sour cream
- Fresh cheese, like ricotta
Surprisingly, the scientists found that low-fat dairy products did not lower diabetes risk at all. They believe the specific types of fat found in milk might raise insulin sensitivity and keep blood glucose levels healthy. This can help you avoid diabetes, or keep better control of your glucose levels if you already have diabetes.
Other research about whole milk and diabetes
This study is not the only one to show that full-fat dairy products might be healthier than skim. A 2012 review published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that 11 previous studies linked high-fat dairy with a lower risk of not only diabetes, but also obesity and heart disease. Many other studies from the past 10 years have not looked at high-fat dairy specifically, but have shown that regular consumption of any milk products can prevent diabetes and obesity.
So what does this mean for you? More research is needed to know for sure, but for now, it’s clear that milk products are likely to be healthy for most people. If you’re interested in making a switch from low-fat dairy to whole, talk about this research with your dietitian or other healthcare provider to help him/her come up with a plan that works for you. It’s also a good idea to check your blood glucose levels more often to see how the changes are affecting them.