Surprise! According to a study from Harvard published in Annals of Internal Medicine, people with the highest circulating levels of a type of fatty acid that is found only in whole-fat dairy are one-third as likely to get diabetes as those with the lowest circulating levels. Higher levels of the fatty acid-called trans-palmitoleic acid-were also associated with lower body mass index (BMI)... smaller waist circumference .. .lower triglycerides (potentially harmful blood fats)... higher levels of HDL "good" cholesterol. . .less insulin resistance... and lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for general inflammation.

How the study was done: At the study's start, researchers began with baseline measurements of glucose, insulin, inflammatory markers, circulating fatty acids and blood lipids (such as triglycerides and cholesterol) from stored 1992 blood samples of 3,736 participants in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded Cardiovascular Health Study. Those data were compared with the same participants' dietary records and recorded health outcomes (including the incidence of diabetes) over the following 10 years. During this period, 304 new cases of diabetes were recorded. When the participants were grouped according to their circulating levels of transpalmitoleic acid, the researchers discovered that those with higher levels had the lowest rates of diabetes.

How Much Dairy?

While other studies have suggested a similar phenomenon with dairy consumption, this is the first to have used objective chemical markers in the blood to determine the relationship between this specific fatty acid and the onset of diabetes. The participants with the highest levels averaged about two servings of whole fat dairy foods a day.

This is not a license to indulge yourself in a daily serving of strawberry shortcake with extra whipped cream or a giant ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery... but you might want to consider switching from skim milk to whole milk with your morning cereal and selecting full-fat yogurt over low-fat or nonfat. The difference in calories isn't great-and you may begetting some real metabolic and cardiovascular benefits.

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