Diabetes could be prevented with the aid of a natural compound that is found in dairy foods, new research has revealed.
The trans-palmitoleic acid compound cannot be produced by the body but is in dairy fat of milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter.
Research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US shows that the substance could help fight type-2 diabetes.
More than 2.3 million people in Britain are affected by the condition, and another half a million have it but are not aware of it.
Around 3,700 people were involved in the study, which has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers followed participants for 20 years to study the risks of developing cardiovascular disease as people get older.
Measurements included blood glucose and insulin levels, and levels of fatty acids (including trans-palmitoleic acid) in the blood.
The results showed that higher levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, insulin levels and insulin sensitivity, even when other factors were taken into account.
Overall, people with the highest levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had about a 60% reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to those with the lowest levels.
The authors called for further studies but lead author, associate professor Dariush Mozaffarian, said “the magnitude of this association is striking”.
The study also appears to confirm previous research showing that a diet rich in dairy foods is linked to lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and related metabolic abnormalities.