The Lund University research, presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), found those that ate eight or more portions of high-fat dairy products per day were 23% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who consumed one portion or less.
In contrast, the research team did not identify any link between the intake of low-fat dairy products and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The high intake of meat, regardless of fat content, was meanwhile associated with an increased risk.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal - a condition called hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes, where insulin is not used properly within the body, is the most common form of diabetes.
According to the Lund University team, dietary fats, such as those found in milk and dairy products, could affect glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity and could therefore play a crucial role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
“The decreased risk at high intakes of high-fat dairy products, but not of low-fat dairy products, indicate that dairy fat, at least partly, explains observed protective associations between dairy intake and type 2 diabetes," said the study.
"More research is needed"
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, lead author of the study, Ulrika Ericson, Lund University Diabetes Center, said that further research must now be conducted to establish which high-fat dairy component is behind the reduced risk.
“Our findings suggest there is something in high-fat dairy products that is protective," she said. "But we don't know what it causing the results."
“We cannot draw a specific conclusion at the moment. More research is needed.”
“Next we need to study the nutrients, not just the food. For example, it could be a specific fatty acid or another component of high-fat dairy.”
The aim of the study, Food sources of at may clarify the earlier inconsistent role of dietary intake for incidence of type 2 diabetes, was to examine intakes of dietary fat sources in relation to incidence type 2 diabetes.
Ericson and her team analyzed data on 26,930 individuals between the ages of 45 and 74 from the population-based Malmo Diet and Cancer cohort.
During 14 years of follow-up, 2,860 incident cases of type 2 diabetes were identified.
People with the highest consumption of high-fat dairy product, eight portions or more per day, were found to have a 23% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest levels of consumption, one or less portion per day.
Increased cream intake - 30ml or more daily versus 0.3ml per day – was associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The Lund University researchers also noted a reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes when comparing those that consumed up to 180ml of high-fat fermented milk per day and those that consumed none.
Title: Food sources of at may clarify the earlier inconsistent role of dietary intake for incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Authors: S Hellstrand, L Brunkwall, E Sonestedt, P Wallstrom, B Gullberg, E Wirfalt, M Orho-Melander.