Dairy fats lower type 2 diabetes risk

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A new study has uncovered intriguing connections between levels of different types of saturated fats in the blood and risk of developing type 2 diabetes—adding more data to the growing body of evidence that, contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, saturated fats from dairy products are actually good for us. In the largest study of its kind—the EPIC-InterAct Study—a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and other institutions studied the saturated fat levels of 12,403 people who developed type 2 diabetes from among a group of over 340,000 European adults. What they found could help shape nutritional policies as well as explain the discrepancies reported by many previous studies in this field. The EPIC-InterAct researchers didn’t just get a simplified look at saturated fats overall, like most previous studies, but instead used sophisticated analysis techniques to measure levels of nine specific kinds of saturated fat molecules found in the blood. The different types of saturated fat vary by the number of carbon atoms they contain. So-called “even-chain” saturated fats with an even number of carbon atoms are found in fried food and red meat, and they’re also produced in the body as a by-product of consuming carbohydrates and alcohol. The three even-chain saturated fats that the researchers measured (containing 14, 16 and 18 carbons in the fat chain) were associated with a 6-36% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Conversely, the two odd-chain fatty acids (with 15 and 17 carbon atoms in the chain) as well as long-chain fatty acids (containing 20 or more carbon atoms) were linked to a diabetes risk reduction ranging from 19-33%. This study shows quite clearly that the health effects of saturated fats can’t be generalized—and certainly aren’t all negative. Importantly, you don’t even need to eat harmful saturated fats in order to have high levels of them in your system—carbs can cause it too. Food for thought the next time you find yourself with a choice between, say, butter and margarine or ice cream vs. cake. (Source: Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2014; doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(14)70146-9) [link])

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