A natural substance found in dairy foods could help prevent diabetes, new research suggests.
The trans-palmitoleic acid compound occurs in the dairy fat of milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter but cannot be made by the body.
Now researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US have found that the compound could help combat Type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 2.3 million Britons.
Up to half a million more people in the UK also have the condition but do not know it.
The latest research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, involved more than 3,700 people.
They were followed for 20 years by researchers looking at the risks of developing cardiovascular disease as people get older. The results showed that higher levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, insulin levels and insulin sensitivity, even when other factors were taken into account.
Overall, people with the highest levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had about a 60 per cent reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared with those with the lowest levels.
The authors called for further studies but lead author associate professor Dariush Mozaffarian said "the magnitude of this association is striking".
He added: "This represents an almost threefold difference in risk of developing diabetes among individuals with the highest blood levels of this fatty acid."