Thursday, February 3, 2011

Milk Does What?

I get an eNewsletter from my Insurance provider at least once a week.  I am always amazed at the contents, or at least one element in the newsletter, each time.  Whether it's pushing a new pharmaceutical or giving insufficient food advice, I don't really feel they are telling the full truth.

So I shouldn't have been too shocked by one of the articles in today's piece that claims: Does Dairy Fat Reduce Type 2 Risk?

In this post they (and most of the rest of the online press) have picked up the news that a compound, trans-palmitoleic acid, in full-fat dairy products may help to reduce Type 2 Diabetes risk (per the Harvard School of Public Health scientists).

I felt I had to do more research as this "news" brought up many questions.

 1. Who funds the Harvard School of Public Health?
 2. Was this finding because the participants had eaten a diet filled with non-fat and therefore more concentrated diary and by eating the full-fat version the risk is less?
3. Why are so many news outlets picking up the story without doing further research.

It seems as if the news and sites are not giving the full story.  They position trans-palmitoleic acid as "not produced by the body" but they fail to note that there are other non-animal based ways to obtain this compound.   They also don't note that this study was a single study based on a single survey. 

What's needed next, says Leonid Poretsky, MD, director of the Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, is an interventional prospective study. "In this type of study, you would give people the substance over a period of time and then observe whether there are indeed fewer cases of diabetes," he says. "This study was just an association study. It doesn't prove cause and effect."
Even Diabetes groups are coming out in opposition to how this finding is being presented:

Research reported in the 'Annals of Internal Medicine' involved 3,736 people over 20 years. They were asked once about their diet and other factors which might affect their health. Three years later they had their blood tested to measure fatty acid levels, including the amount of trans-palmitoleic acid, and after that information about their health was collected annually.

The journal draws attention to several limitations of the study. Participants were asked only once about the foods they usually eat, and dietary habits may change over time. The blood levels of trans-palmitoleic acid measured several years later may have no longer related to the types of foods the participants originally reported eating. Therefore it is not possible to conclude from this study which foods, if any, result in greater levels of trans-palmitoleic acid in the blood. In addition, this kind of study cannot say whether trans-palmitoleic acid or some other unidentified factor was the cause of the positive health effects seen.

My advice: make sure to learn more about the whole picture and not just read the headlines.
Personally, the results don't matter to me.  I'm not eating dairy. Health factors are just one reason we're vegan.  The other is this is a compassionate choice that I make not only for myself, but also for the environment and the animals.  

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