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Full-Fat Dairy – Especially Yogurt – May Deter Diabetes
Whole dairy products linked to a 23% drop in the risk; Lacto-Paleo diets are on the rise

04/17/2015 By Craig Weatherby

Do diets featuring milk or milk products help to deter diabetes?

 
A recent evidence review found that most studies link diets rich in milk products to a reduced risk for diabetes (Astrup A 2014).
 
And lab studies provide several explanations as to why that might be, which is important.
 
We've covered some of that research, in Dairy May Deter Diabetes and Does Milk Help Deter Diabetes?.
 
However, rather than milk per se, most evidence suggests that fermented dairy foods like yogurt and cheese do the most to reduce diabetes risk.
 
The live microbial cultures found in some yogurt and cheese, and their effects on milk, may do much to explain this link (Chen M et al. 2014; Wise J 2014; Jafari T et al. 2015).
 
Conversely, one rat study suggested that certain saturated fats common to meats and whole-fat dairy foods may suppress satiety signals, and thereby enable overeating … see Beef-Dairy Fat May Fool Brain's Appetite Signals.
 
But the example of the famed "French paradox” strongly challenges the idea that moderate intakes of whole, full-fat, fermented dairy foods (e.g., cheese and plain yogurt) promote obesity.
 
It's been unclear whether low- or full-fat products are better … but a new Swedish study suggests that whole-fat dairy foods may confer advantages versus low-fat versions.
 
If so, this would undermine conventional advice to diabetics, which is to favor low- or non-fat dairy foods.
 
Let's take a look at a new epidemiological study – which linked whole-fat dairy foods to lower diabetes risk – and then cover a growing Lacto-Paleo diet trend.
 
Study links full-fat dairy foods to reduced diabetes risk
Scientists at Sweden's Lund University conducted the newly published study. 
 
It involved 26,930 people (61 percent women), aged 45 to 74, whose dietary habits were recorded via questionnaires.
 
They followed the group for 14 years, and after comparing the volunteers' diets to their health outcomes, the results linked high-fat yogurt and cheese to a reduced risk for diabetes.
 
According to lead investigator Ulrika Ericson, "Those who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 23 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least.”
 
However, as she noted, "High meat consumption was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes regardless of the fat content of the meat.”
 
Results fit with some prior research
The new findings align with previous studies linking frequent consumption of dairy foods to reduced risk of diabetes.
 
However, the new study pinpoints whole, full-fat dairy products as superior to low-fat versions for diabetes risk reduction.
 
Both meat and dairy products contain saturated fat, but certain saturated fatty acids are particularly common in dairy products.
 
This difference may help explain why most studies link meaty diets to higher risk for diabetes, while most link dairy-rich diets to reduced risk for diabetes.
 
And their analysis linked saturated fats that are slightly more common in dairy products than in meat to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. 
 
However, as Dr. Ericson said, "... we have not ruled out the possibility that other components of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese may have contributed to our results.”
 
We presume that she was referring to the live cultures (and/or their byproducts) in fermented dairy foods (cheese, yogurt, kefir), which are proven to exert strong influences on myriad aspects of metabolic and overall health.
 
Ericson noted that some mysteries remain and need exploration: "We have taken into account many dietary and lifestyle factors in our analysis, such as fermentation, calcium, vitamin D and physical activity."
 
"However", she added, "there may be other factors that we have not been able to measure that are shared by those who eat large quantities of high-fat dairy products. Moreover, different food components can interact with each other. For example, in one study, saturated fat in cheese appeared to have less of a cholesterol-raising effect than saturated fat in butter.”
 
She made an important point about diet: "Our results suggest that we should not focus solely on fat, but rather consider what foods we eat. Many foodstuffs contain different components that are harmful or beneficial to health, and it is the overall balance that is important.”
 
Dairy finds a place on some Paleo plates
Paleo diets – which copies humankind's presumed pre-agricultural diet – are all the rage.
 
And it's clear that the mix of foods in the prototypical Paleo diet – grass fed meats and poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds, and little else – enjoys substantial scientific support.
 
 
But many are pushing back against what seem like arbitrary exclusions that lack scientific support, and/or ignore the obvious benefits of dozens of highly diverse traditional diets … eating patterns that often originated from 1,000 to several thousand years ago.
 
Few to no traditional diets promote the ills liked to modern, processed diets … despite featuring many foods forbidden in the prototypical Paleo diet, as described by Professor Loren Cordain and his many disciples.
 
The forbidden categories include dairy, legumes (beans and lentils), and whole grains. 
 
And Paleo diets shun vegetable oils … a rule that should only apply to cheap oils like corn, soy, safflower and sunflower, due to their high omega-6 fat content.
 
But the evidence supports ample enjoyment of antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil, and more modest use of macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, flax oil, hemp oil, high-oleic sunflower oil, and other low-omega-6 oils.
 
We addressed some of the questions about strict Paleo diets in Is the Paleo Diet Based on Myths?, Do Grains Help or Harm Health?, and our review of the book, The Paleo Diet Manifesto, which includes our take on the prototypical Paleo diet's exclusion of dairy foods, beans, and whole grains.
 
Some who agree that the Paleo diet is unnecessarily – perhaps even detrimentally – restrictive are joining the Lacto-Paleo movement, which allows dairy foods.
 
Cow and goat milk alike seem well suited to higher-protein diets like the Paleo plan, since they beat almond, coconut or rice milk for protein: about 8 grams per cup (8 oz.) versus just one.
 
However, compared with unsweetened almond milk – which has no sugars and is fairly low in fat and calories – cow and goat milk have about 11 grams of sugars and three times as much fat and five times the calorie count.
 
Of course, that's because almond milk is mostly water. But the most popular almond milk products contain added sugars (which doubles their sugar and calorie content), salts, and gum-type thickeners … plus added calcium and vitamin D to compete with cow's milk on those scores.
 
So Lacto-Paleo folks do need to watch their intake of cow's milk, just to avoid getting excess calories and sugars.
 
Soy milk rivals cow and goat milk for protein, with one cup of unfortified soy milk containing about 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of sugars, and 5 grams of fat. 
 
But soy milk is very high in omega-6 fats, which Americans consume to an extreme excess that promotes inflammation.
 
Here's a smoothie ideal for a Lacto-Paleo breakfast or lunch:
 
Strawberry Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
  • 1 packet plain instant oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup whole, plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled, chopped
  • 1/4 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
  1. Combine the first five ingredients in blender.
  2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Blend mixture until smooth and top with chopped walnuts.
 
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