Eating dairy may lower your risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

The study out of CHU de Québec Research Center and Laval University looked at how overall eating habits, as well as dairy intake, could affect overall metabolic health.

Researchers evaluated about 250 people with healthy metabolic profiles in the metropolitan area of Quebec. In this study, trans-palmitoleic acid (naturally present in milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and meat fat, but not created by the body) was associated with lower blood pressure in men and women, as well as lower body weight in men.  Dairy intake was linked with lower blood glucose and blood pressure in but it’s unknown whether it caused either outcome.

Dairy is considered part of a balanced diet in both the United States and Canada, but about 45 percent of the participants in the study fell short of the daily recommendation. Osteoporosis and low bone mass affect nearly 44 million Americans over the age of 50, and guidelines suggest 2 to 4 portions of milk-based products a day in order to maintain healthy calcium and mineral levels needed for bone health.

This study adds to literature demonstrating positive health effects associated with higher dairy intake.  However, it is contradictory to many other studies which point to dairy as the cause of chronic inflammation, a precursor to many diseases, including cancer.

Dairy and cancer?

While some moderate intake of low-fat dairy has been proven to guard against inflammation, whole milk or even 2 percent is still high in saturated fat. A majority of adults, and about 60 percent of the global population, have at least some difficulty digesting milk. High amounts of milk fat could trigger inflammatory reactions, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne and breathing issues. 

Some research has focused on the role that chronic inflammation, like that caused by dairy, plays in the development of certain diseases, like cancer.  Chronic inflammation can be quite dangerous.  Short-term inflammation used for healing is normal, but when inflammation as an immune response never turns off, the constant production of immune cells can do permanent damage and lead to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer's.

Although more research is needed to conclude that reducing inflammation leads to a reduction in cancer risk, avoiding things that cause chronic inflammation can improve overall health and protect you from potential harm.

Some people employ an "anti-inflammatory diet" to achieve this. While following this kind of diet may not work to directly prevent inflammation, the recommended foods are good choices and typical of the Mediterranean style of eating – which had been shown to promote health and longevity. Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Very little red meat

For now, anti-inflammatory diet guidelines are simply suggestions. More research is needed to truly understand the relationship between diet and inflammation and, in turn, disease.  But until then, recommendations for increased dairy intake should also be taken with a grain of salt.