Cheese eaters may have more than refined palates -- they may also carry a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who reported being cheese eaters have a 12 percent lower risk of the disease than people who don't eat cheese.
Plus, people who ate more cheese, fermented milk and yogurt in the study were also more likely to have a decreased diabetes risk than people who ate less of these foods, noted the researchers, who came from Oxford University and Imperial College London.
But overall, dairy consumption was not linked with an increased or decreased risk of diabetes, the researchers found.
The results of the study came from data from eight countries in Europe, which included 340,234 people. The researchers compared the diets of 12,403 people who went on to have diabetes in the study, with 16,835 randomly chosen people in the study. The highest cheese-eaters in the study consumed more than 56 grams of the food a day, while the lowest cheese-eaters ate fewer than 11 grams a day, the UK's NHS Choices reported.
However, NHS Choices noted that the effect of cheese on diabetes risk may differ from country to country. For example, French cheese-eaters had a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, but UK cheese-eaters actually had a higher risk of the disease, NHS Choices reported.
In addition, the researchers did not note whether the cheese or dairy products the study participants ate were low-fat or full-fat, or how exactly eating cheese could lower the risk of diabetes, according to NHS Choices.
But before you go wild eating cheese, keep in mind that the food is high in calories and saturated fat. Plus, the study shows just a link between cheese consumption and decreased diabetes risk, not a cause-and-effect relationship. Diabetes UK's director of research, Dr. Iain Frame, told The Telegraph that the new study "gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid the condition," and that people should stick to eating lots of fruits and vegetables as part of their diets.
However, this is not the first time the food has been linked to a lower diabetes risk.
A Harvard study published in 2010 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine pinpointed a particular dairy fat substance-- called trans-palmitoleic acid -- linked with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. That study included 3,736 people who were tracked for 20 years. The researchers found that at the end of the study, the ones with more trans-palmitoleic acid in their blood were less likely to have diabetes at the end of the study period than those with less trans-palmitoleic acid in their blood.
And in a mice study, researchers from Penn State found that compounds called conjugated linoleic acids, which are found in dairy products, worked similarly to diabetes drugs in lowering glucose levels and improving the mice's insulin action.