Learn about a host of diabetes-related topics such as how many Americans suffer from this disease to how to easily adjust to a new diet after diagnoses. This section will provide you with the information you need to make informed dietary decisions regarding diabetes.

The Diabetic Dairy Discussion: Low-Fat vs. Full-Fat

A high-fat diet has been thought to contribute to weight gain and the development of heart disease and diabetes. However, new research suggests high-fat dairy products may actually reduce the risk of diabetes.


When it comes to the management of diabetes, the control of blood sugar is top priority. Uncontrolled blood sugars can ultimately result into complications and compromise body organs. In addition, a high-fat diet is often thought to contribute to weight gain and the development of heart disease and diabetes. Surprisingly, new research suggests high-fat dairy products may actually reduce the risk of diabetes.

Low-Fat Versus Full-Fat

First off, it is important to get a better grasp on the nutritional makeup of dairy products. The table below represents the variations between macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) in cow's milk.

When deciphering through the numbers, it is noteworthy to notice the grams of both carbohydrate and protein stays consistent despite the varying milk type. When it really comes down to it, the fat and calorie content individualizes cow's milk. It seems only logical the intake of skim or low-fat milk should replace whole milk to reduce calories and fat, ultimately reducing the potential for weight gain and diabetes risk. However, new research seems to suggest otherwise.

Can High-Fat Actually Reduce the Risk of Diabetes?

Not long ago, fat was commonly feared among the general population. Its intake was an associated contributor to weight gain and the development of heart disease and diabetes. Although a high intake of fat can do so, the body needs fat from healthful sources and in moderation.

New research has shined the light on high-fat dairy products fitting into a healthy diet. The study, conducted by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and his colleagues, analyzed the blood of 3,333 adults enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study of Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The 15-year study found those who consumed higher full-fat dairy products had, on average, a 46 percent reduced risk of developing diabetes compared to individuals who consumed low-fat dairy products. A further study in the American Journal of Nutrition suggested women who had a diet richer in full-fat dairy products had an eight percent lower risk of becoming obese compared to women who consumed lower-fat dairy products.

Although there is not one sound piece to conclude this phenomenon, experts are weighing in with multiple explanations surfacing.

• To compensate for reduced fat in low-fat dairy products, carbohydrates are taking over its spot. Too much carbohydrate can ultimately result into body fat. Greek yogurt, for example, can be filled with added sugars for flavor enhancement.

• High-fat dairy products can reduce feelings of hunger. Although richer in calories, consuming full-fat products can reduce the chance to over consumer and eat sweets and other sugary foods.

• Fats in dairy may be improving the liver's and muscle's ability to break down sugar from foods. Insulin and glucose may also be further regulated in a beneficial way.

• Cheese, an often high-fat dairy product, is fermented and contains microbes. They may be able to improve insulin response, ultimately lowering the risk of diabetes.

The Take-Home Message

The new research regarding full-fat dairy over low-fat is nonetheless compelling. Experts do suggest further research to surface a better understanding on the matter. A diet high in fat can certainly increase the risk for weight gain and diabetes. When drinking milk and consuming other dairy products, it is important to stick to serving sizes and pay attention to added sugars.


Park A. The Case Against Low-fat Milk Is Stronger Than Ever. Time. Available at: http://time.com/4279538/the-case-against-low-fat-milk-is-stronger-than-ever/.

Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on May 30, 2016. Updated on June 22, 2016.


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