assortment of milk products

Full-Fat Dairy Linked to Lower Risk for Diabetes

by Dr. Mercola

The number of people with type 2 diabetes equals 9.3 percent of the population of the U.S. or 29 million people.1This is an increase from the 2010 estimate of 26 million people. Another 86 million people have pre-diabetes, where their blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

If those with pre-diabetes do not make changes to their diet and exercise habits, between 15 percent and 30 percent will develop diabetes within the next five years. These numbers are overwhelming when you consider the complications related to diabetes have an impact on the individual, the family and the workforce.

Diabetes is a serious health condition with serious complications. Without consistent blood sugar control, excess glucose in your blood causes damage to your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, gums, teeth and neurological system.

Adults with diabetes experience greater risk for these conditions as reported by the American Diabetes Association using data from 2008 to 2012: 2

  • 71 percent of individuals with diabetes were diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure
  • 65 percent of people with diabetes were diagnosed with high cholesterol levels
  • Death from heart disease was 1.7 times greater than those without diabetes
  • Hospitalization for heart attack was 1.8 percent higher than those without diabetes
  • 28.5 percent of people over 40 years are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy (eye disease) that may result in loss of vision
  • 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure is attributed to diabetes

Study Links Full-Fat Dairy to Lower Risk of Diabetes

The advice to eat low-fat foods and dairy products originated as far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s. A single research study performed by an economist proposed that high-fat diets were the cause of most heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol levels.3

Before that study, and since, other well-designed and peer-reviewed studies have refuted that evidence.

The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association continue to advocate the use of a low-fat diet with fat-free or low-fat dairy products.4,5,6

However, a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation recommends something entirely different.7

Beginning in 1989 and continuing for the next two decades, researchers followed over 3,000 participants in a study linking full-fat dairy products with a reduced risk of diabetes and better weight-management outcomes.8

Researchers confirmed the health of the study participants using blood tests, questionnaires and current medications. Initially all participants were free of diabetes or pre-diabetes blood markers.

Researchers confirmed in two separate groups a reduced risk for developing diabetes when the participants consumed full-fat dairy products.

This study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between full-fat dairy and a reduced risk of diabetes, but it does build on other studies that suggest full-fat dairy products can help maintain weight and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Saturated Fats Linked to Better Health

Soon after the initial flawed research encouraging low-fat diets was published in the 1950s, President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while in office. His doctors placed him on a very restricted low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

When he first had his heart attack his cholesterol was 165 and by the time he left office it had risen to 259.9

President Lyndon Johnson also suffered a heart attack, was placed on a low-fat diet and continued to suffer from ill health. Only after beginning to eat beef grown on his ranch did President Johnson’s cholesterol begin to normalize and his heart health improve.

Research study after study has continued to confirm what your body inherently knows to be true: saturated fats are not the evil foods they were once advertised to be.

Studies demonstrate that eating a diet high in healthy fats and low in non-vegetable carbs improves insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose,10 leads to better stabilization of A1C blood test in individuals who had diabetes,11and, in one study, also showed a reduction or elimination of medication to treat diabetes in 90 percent of the participants.12

Those are the benefits of eating healthy saturated fats for people with diabetes. Other benefits include a reduction in appetite resulting in eating less and an easier time maintaining your weight.13

A great proportion of that weight loss is from visceral fat found in your abdominal cavity.14 Visceral fat increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and dementia.

Diets higher in healthy saturated fats have demonstrated an increase in high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, protecting the heart and blood vessels.15 16,17

How Dairy Can Contribute to Your Diet

It is important to note that you can get healthy saturated fats from a variety of sources, full-fat dairy products being one of them. However, it is also important to know that not all dairy products are created equally.

In the past, cows were raised on a farm and milked each morning and evening for the family’s meals. As more people sold their farms and moved into the cities, they brought their cows. The cows were housed in local distilleries built to make rum after an embargo on the import of Jamaican Rum.

Fed the by-product of grains from the manufacture of rum, the natural bacterial growth in the milk changed. The reduced quality of the milk was compounded by the dirty conditions in which the cows were kept and milked.

This was a time in history when typhoid was a common infection and the basic understanding of germs was still decades away, discovered by Louis Pasteur between 1860 and 1864.

It wasn’t until the early 1890s when Dr. Henry Coit was able to form the Medical Milk Commission that mandated the conditions under which milk was produced, called certified raw milk. This happened two years after the death of his son from contaminated milk.

At around the same time, Nathan Straus, who also lost a child to contaminated milk, lobbied hard for the pasteurization of milk products. Nathan Straus was a co-owner of R.H. Macy (later just Macy’s Department Stores) and Abraham & Straus.

He used his considerable influence and financial backing to subsidize the first of many depots where families could purchase low-cost pasteurized milk.

Problems With CAFO Milk

Today, most milk is produced in large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where the animals don’t receive sunlight, are fed genetically modified grains and soy products and stand in each other’s excrement. To stop as much infection from these conditions as possible, the animals are given antibiotics.

They are also given steroids to boost their milk production. Drinking milk produced under these conditions would be dangerous and, therefore, the milk must be pasteurized in order to be safe for consumption. Unfortunately, the process of pasteurization kills most of the healthy enzymes and nutrients.

The second ingredient in milk that’s purposefully removed is the butterfat, producing skim milk. Without butterfat your body can’t absorb the fat-soluble vitamins.

The butterfat is also the best source of preformed vitamin A. Manufacturers add a synthetic form of vitamin D to replace the vitamin D that is removed with butterfat. Although pasteurization was initiated to reduce the number of infections and illnesses from contaminated milk, the ability to produce clean milk using better techniques now allows most countries in Europe to dispense raw milk in vending machines.

Differences Between Raw and Pasteurized Milk

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Agriculture Department are adamant that raw milk will increase your risk of death and disease, but Europe is not experiencing this issue. In fact, research by Dr. Ted Beals found you are actually 35,000 times more likely to get sick from any other food than raw milk.18

Here’s another way of looking at the difference between raw milk and pasteurized products. The pasteurized product is heat treated to kill bacteria that is in the milk because of the conditions in which the cows live. So you are drinking milk loaded with dead bacteria. Although killed, the protein molecules of the bacteria are not removed.

Your body recognizes the foreign proteins and it increases the likelihood you’ll suffer from allergic response as your body prepares to fight. On the other hand, raw unpasteurized milk produced under clean conditions from grass-fed cows contains whey protein that stabilizes those same fighting cells in your body and reduces the allergic effect that some people experience.

How to Increase Healthy Fats in Your Diet Plan

The message from the research is to increase the amount of healthy, saturated fats in your diet every day. Reduce the amount of non-vegetable carbohydrates each day and replace those with highly nutritious and always delicious foods higher in saturated fats.

Saturated fats, such as organic butter from grass-fed cows, virgin coconut oil and raw whole milk, provide your body and brain with the nutrients needed for optimal health. They do not make you fat or increase your cholesterol levels. On the contrary, they help improve your cardiovascular health, reduce your appetite, help you maintain your weight and improve your insulin sensitivity.

In fact, your body cannot function optimally without saturated fats. These molecules are essential in the formation of cell membranes and as food for your brain. They also support your immune system and play an important role in the production and function of your hormones. Some examples of foods high in healthy fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Organic, grass-fed meat
  • Raw, grass-fed dairy products
  • Raw nuts such as almonds, pecans and seeds.
  • Olives and Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil
  • Unheated organic nut oils
  • Dark Chocolate

The real dietary villains are carbohydrates such as sugars, grains and fructose. Once metabolized in your body they may increase your triglycerides, inflammatory response and the amount of fat your body produces. Choosing these substances has led to rising numbers of people suffering from chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Should You Drink Milk?

Truth be told, many people should not consume dairy whether it is raw or pasteurized, as they are allergic to the milk proteins. Additionally, if you’re insulin resistant, you would likely be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk, as it contains the dairy sugar lactose, which can worsen insulin/leptin resistance.

However, if you are healthy and want to drink milk, raw milk from a high-quality source is generally superior in nutrition and flavor. It will also help to decrease the likelihood of insulin spikes from the milk sugar, courtesy of the thick layer of cream on top.

Sources and References

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