Harvard Study: Dairy Fat To The Rescue From Diabetes?

By Marielle Segarra, WBUR intern

Trans fats are notorious health villains. The trans fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils can increase your risk for heart disease.

But scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health think one trans fat may substantially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

It’s called trans-palmitoleic acid, and it is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, but not produced by the body.

The Cardiovascular Health Study, led by Harvard doctors Dariush Mozaffarian and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, monitored how many of 4,000 participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after 20 years.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers measured participants’ levels of blood glucose, insulin, and blood fatty acids. Back then, participants who had higher levels of the trans fat trans-palmitoleic acid also had healthier blood cholesterol and insulin levels.

20 years later, participants with the most trans-palmitoleic acid (the top 20 percent) had a 60 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than those with the lowest levels.

The study adjusted its percentages for factors that might increase the risk of diabetes, such as age, race, and smoking habits.

Dr. Mozaffarian says that though other recent studies have linked diets rich in diary foods to a lower risk of diabetes, this study goes a step beyond, suggesting that one trans fat is responsible for the drop. Continue reading