Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and collaborators from other institutions have identified a natural substance in dairy fat that may substantially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The compound, trans-palmitoleic acid, is a fatty acid found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. It is not produced by the body and thus only comes from the diet.

Health experts generally advise reducing full-fat dairy products assuming fat is harmful for health, but trans-palmitoleic acid is found in dairy fat.

These scientists have found that at baseline, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity, after adjustment for other risk factors.

In contrast to the types of industrially produced trans fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been linked to higher risk of heart disease, trans-palmitoleic acid is almost exclusively found in naturally occurring dairy and meat trans fats, which in prior studies have not been linked to higher heart disease risk.

One of the researchers emphasized the magnitude of the risk reduction. “This is an extremely strong protective effect, stronger than other things we know can be beneficial against diabetes."

So more milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter please.


1. "Whole Milk And Full-Fat Dairy May Help You Maintain Weight, Reduce Diabetes Risk", April 2016

2. "Dairy fat may help not harm", December 2010

3. "Dietary and Policy Priorities for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity: A Comprehensive Review" January 2016