Diabetes prevention Cardiovascular health

Could a yogurt a day keep diabetes away – and protect our heart and blood vessels?

A balanced diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are widely recommended to help prevent type 2 diabetes and keep our blood vessels and heart in tip-top condition. So it’s more than likely that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is high on your ‘to-do’ list for keeping fit and healthy – but growing evidence suggests that dairy products such as milk and yogurt could play an important role too. Evidence from this study suggests eating just one more pot of yogurt a day may make all the difference.

Scientists have identified several risk factors that help determine why some people are vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke while others sail through life without them. Excess fat around the midriff, low ‘good’ (high density lipoprotein, HDL) cholesterol, high triglycerides, raised blood pressure, and resistance to insulin together form the metabolic syndrome – which spells bad news for our heart and circulatory system.

Dairy goodness – examining the evidence

It’s common knowledge that diet is important in combating these risk factor components of the metabolic syndrome. While the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting down on red meat and saturated fat, and avoiding sugar are well established, the effects of dairy products on these risk factors have until now been less clear.

The authors of this article therefore reviewed studies looking at the relationship between intake of dairy foods and the development of the risk factors in healthy people.

Just one extra dairy serving each day reduces risk factors

An analysis of the combined data from all the studies showed that an extra daily serving of dairy foods was associated with a 9% reduction in the risk factor components of the metabolic syndrome. The reduction in risk factors was seen with specific types of dairy food consumption as well as total dairy food consumption.

A daily serving of yogurt may be particularly beneficial

An extra glass of milk a day was associated with a 13% reduction in risk factors, while an extra pot of yogurt a day was associated with an 18% reduction.

More specifically, a one-serving per day increase in the amount of yogurt consumed was associated with a 16% lower risk of raised sugar levels in the blood.

 ‘These results suggest that specific types of dairy food consumption such as milk and yogurt as well as total dairy product intake were inversely linked to the [metabolic syndrome] and its components.’ – Lee M et al, 2018.

When the authors looked at the fat content of dairy foods, an extra daily serving of whole-fat dairy food was associated with a 22% reduction in risk factors. In contrast, low-fat dairy foods showed no association.

How can we explain the beneficial effects of dairy products?

It’s likely that the nutrient-rich content of dairy products such as milk and yogurt may contribute to reducing risk factors for heart and vascular disease and diabetes.

For example, calcium in dairy products can reduce fat absorption from the gut, it may reduce the production and storage of fats within the body, and it might have beneficial effects on blood lipids. Milk proteins, such as casein and whey protein, have been shown to regulate several risk factors, and may be particularly important in lowering blood pressure.

The association between yogurt consumption and reduced risk of hyperglycaemia seems to be partly due to vitamin K2 which is synthesised by bacteria in live yogurt and has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

A possible explanation for the lack of an association between low-fat dairy foods and risk factors is that people eating low-fat dairy products may eat more fat or carbohydrate from other sources which may cancel out any benefits.

This study only included data from observational studies in which there was no attempt to change people’s diet in any way. To strengthen the evidence, the authors recommend that a similar analysis should be carried out on data from studies in which people have been randomly allocated to eat different types and amounts of dairy foods.

Find out more: read the original article.

Source: Lee M, Lee H, Kim J. Dairy food consumption is associated with a lower risk of the metabolic syndrome and its components: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2018;120:373-384.


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