Are Low Fat Diets Helping to Cause Type 2 Diabetes?

December 25, 2010 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 Are Low Fat Diets Helping to Cause Type 2 Diabetes?
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health1, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, have come to the conclusion that dietary intake of high-fat dairy offers significant protection against developing a variety of metabolic problems, including the onset of type 2 diabetes. The researchers were stunned to report that Americans with a fatty acid in their blood (trans-palmitoleate), which elevates in direct proportion to the amount of high-fat dairy products that are consumed, had a rather amazing three-fold less likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. The study turns public health dogma about eating a low-fat diet on its head.

The idea that eating a low-fat diet somehow produces health has actually never been proven. It has been proven that overeating is not a good thing, and high fat intake is often a dietary staple of those prone to overeating. It has also been proven that eating a high-fat diet with a deficiency of fiber, plant polyphenols, and DHA is not a good thing. Furthermore, it has been proven that over-eating a diet that is high-sugar and high-fat is one of the fastest ways on earth to become type 2 diabetic. But it has never been proven that fat in and of itself, as a higher percentage of calories of a normal amount of food, has any adverse health consequences.

This study followed 3,736 participants in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded Cardiovascular Health Study, who have been followed for 20 years in an observational study to evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in older adults. Blood samples were collected back in 1992, including an analysis of the fatty acids present in their blood. At baseline, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity. During follow-up, individuals with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a much lower risk of developing diabetes, with about a 60% lower risk among participants in the highest quintile (fifth) of trans-palmitoleic acid levels, compared to individuals in the lowest quintile. “This represents an almost three-fold difference in risk of developing diabetes among individuals with the highest blood levels of this fatty acid,” said Mozaffarian, lead author of the study. “This is an extremely strong protective effect, stronger than other things we know can be beneficial against diabetes.”

Unlike dangerous synthetic trans-fats that ruined the health of a generation, this type of trans fat is naturally produced by the digestive tract of a cow. Trans-palmitoleic acid is almost exclusively found in naturally-occurring dairy and meat.

In the new world of nutrition and gene science it is quite clear that fatty acids of different types have different metabolic signaling effects. Trans-palmitoleic acid is associated with higher levels of protective HDL cholesterol, less inflammation, less insulin resistance, better insulin sensitivity, and a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This means that the concept of “fat grams” as bad is a surface-level notion about health. Those who wish to be proactive about health need to rise above public health nutrition dogma, which is tied closely to the sales of billions and billions of dollars worth of cardiovascular and diabetic medication.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Dairy Intake Linked to Lower Rates of Type 2 Diabetes  Annals of Internal Medicine  1.Dariush Mozaffarian, Haiming Cao, Irena B. King, Rozenn N. Lemaitre, Xiaoling Song, David S. Siscovick, and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil

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