Fats in our diet play an important role in type 2 diabetes development, whether it be good or bad, by affecting glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. A recent study presented at this year's annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Vienna, Austria suggests that consuming dairy products high in fat, such as whole milk and cream, can reduce our risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 23 percent.

"Our observations may contribute to clarifying previous findings regarding dietary fats and their food sources in relation to T2D,” lead researcher Dr. Ulrika Ericson said in a statement. “The decreased risk at high intakes of high-fat dairy products, but not of low-fat dairy products, indicate that dairy fat, at least partly, explains observed protective associations between dairy intake and T2D.”

Ericson and her colleagues gathered their data using the population-based Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort that included 26,930 participants between the ages 45-74 years, 60 percent of which were women. After 14 years of follow up, it was determined that 2,860 participants had developed type 2 diabetes. The research team used hazard ratio modeling to determine each participant’s risk of diabetes, which included age, sex, season, diet assessment method version, total energy intake, BMI, leisure time physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and education.

Higher intake of high-fat dairy products lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by 23 percent in the highest consuming 20 percent of participants (eight portions per day) compared to the lowest consuming 20 percent (one portion per day). People who consumed 30ml of cream per day lowered their type 2 diabetes risk by 15 percent compared to those who consumed 0.3 ml per day. Drinking 180ml of high-fat fermented milk also reduced type 2 diabetes risk by 20 percent compared to not drinking any.

“Meat intake was associated with increased risk of developing diabetes regardless of fat content,” Ericson added. “Our findings suggest, that in contrast to animal fats in general, fats specific to dairy products may have a role in prevention of type 2 diabetes."

Although consuming low-fat dairy products had no impact on type 2 diabetes risk, eating meat, both low-fat and high-fat, led to a significant increase. Eating meats high in fat increased type 2 diabetes risk by nine percent, while low-fat meats increased a person’s risk by 24 percent. Previous studies suggest that people can reduce their type 2 diabetes risk by replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

Source: Ericson U, et al. Study shows consumption of high-fat dairy products is associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes. European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Vienna. 2014.