Good news from Sweden, via Vienna, site of the 2014 European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting. According to Medscape Medical News, epidemiologists from Lund University Diabetes Center in Malmö, Sweden reported, that “people who consume a large amount of high-fat dairy products… have a 23% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who consume lower levels…” That’s good news for full-fat yoghurt, cheese, heavy cream and whole-fat milk fans. People the world over should be rejoicing.
26,930 Swedish people aged 45 to 74 years were included in the study. Swedes love their yoghurt with fruit, coffee and bread for breakfast. What interested me most about this study, though, was that both the Swedish scientists and the Medscape writer were both open to the findings. The Medscape banner was, “Big Intake of High-Fat Dairy May Be Protective for Diabetes.” That’s got to get the attention of the mainstream medical establishment.
Of course, I am probably being naïve. A large cohort of the Swedish population is already eating LCHF (low-carb, high-fat). Andreas Eenfeldt, MD, founder of Diet Doctor, reported on that a long time ago. And he was among the first to herald the decision of the Swedish Government to change its official dietary recommendations. So, the Swedish scientists who initiated this study, declaring themselves to have “no relevant financial relationships,” were like the camel who stuck his nose under the tent. Their aim was, “to clarify the risk for Type 2 diabetes associated with the intake of the main dietary [saturated] fat sources – namely, meat, fish and dairy. I added “saturated” because polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from vegetable oils have become the main dietary fat source for most Americans.
In the cloak of pure, unbiased science, to the extent that is possible, they accepted certain tenets of “perceived wisdom” while opening the crack in the “growing body of evidence supporting the need to shift the focus of dietary advice away from nutrients like total or saturated fat to the healthfulness of saturated fat food sources like dairy products or meat.” The hazard ratios (HRs), after 14 years of follow-up, were striking. Most impressive was that high-fat fermented milk [yoghurt] consumption [just a 6 oz serving] …reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 20%.
As usual, the scientists, looking for new grant money, obviously, raised more questions than they answered. One of them said, “To place the observed beneficial association with high-fat dairy in context, it is important to tease out if the higher risk of no association of low-fat dairy products with diabetes was because low-fat products have extra added sugar instead, which we know from other research to be detrimental” (emphasis added by me). She also noted that, “Other beneficial health effects might be due to other beneficial compounds in dairy, such as probiotics [present in fermented foods like raw cheese and yoghurt] and other nonfat nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.”
Medscape also noted that while “previous epidemiological studies have indicated a high intake of dairy products is associated with a decreased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,” the Swedish scientists said, ‘but it has been suggested that mainly low-fat dairy lies behind the observations.’” However, Medscape concludes, “The findings presented here suggest ONLY high-fat content is protective.” “In comparison with high-fat dairy products, a large intake of low-fat dairy was associated with increased risk for Type 2 diabetes…” That should clarify things.
“The results in relation to intake of meat and meat products were found to be in line with previous findings,” Medscape reported. “An increased risk for diabetes was found for meat and meat products regardless of fat content.” The camel’s nose knows not to go any further. But Swedes and Europeans in general love dairy and eat far less meat than Americans. Among other reasons, meat is much more expensive there than here.The Medscape article doesn’t mention any finding with respect to the other source of dietary saturated fat: fish. Fish such as herring and salmon are sacred to Scandinavians, and salmon is 29% palmitic acid, a very beneficial saturated fat. The last time we visited, Sweden to visit my wife’s relatives, in every home the gracious hosts served salmon with a crème fraiche and caviar topping, with aquavit and a beer chaser. Yum, yum. For breakfast, they offered muesli or full-fat yoghurt, fruit, bread, and coffee. It was a refreshing change from my usual eggs, bacon and coffee with HWC.