Diabetes prevention

Eating more yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

Eating more yogurt and less cheese is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, the disease that can takes a heavy toll on health.

It’s no secret that type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to unhealthy dietary habits and this is partly why it’s becoming alarmingly common across the world. So what sorts of foods should we be choosing to prevent diabetes? Findings from this large study of people in the USA suggest that it’s time to tuck into more yogurt but cut back on the amount of cheese we eat.

Dairy products contain bioactive compounds – such as calcium and whey protein – that may be associated with protection against type 2 diabetes. Fermented dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese also contain bacteria that boost the microbes living naturally in our intestines and may too be associated with reduced diabetes risk.

But do all fermented dairy products have the same effect? Is low-fat really better than full-fat? These are just some of the questions that diabetes experts are trying to answer.

Studies of diet and disease take years to provide answers

This study used data collected in large surveys of US healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses. The surveys collected information on diet and the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The participants completed a food questionnaire every 4 years and a health questionnaire every 2 years. They were followed for up to 26 years.

The authors used this information to see how changes in the amounts and types of dairy foods eaten regularly over a 4-year period were associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next 4-year period.

Keep eating dairy products to help stay healthy

People who reduced their total dairy intake had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than people who maintained a stable dairy consumption. But increasing total dairy consumption didn’t appear to affect diabetes risk.

Despite many studies, the effect of dairy fat on diabetes risk remains unclear, say the authors. Using the information available to them, the authors estimated that replacing high-fat dairy products with low-fat dairy may be associated with a slightly lower risk of diabetes. [This differs from other research findings suggesting that full-fat dairy foods are actually associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.]

Eat a little more yogurt and a little less cheese

Eating just half a pot of yogurt more every day was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. The opposite was seen for cheese. Increasing cheese intake by just half a serving every day was associated with a higher diabetes risk, the authors report. The effects were similar for both low-fat and high-fat cheese.

‘Increasing intake of yogurt and concomitantly decreasing cheese intake by 1 serving/d was associated with a 16% (95% CI: 10%, 22%) lower risk of T2D [type 2 diabetes],…’ – Drouin-Chartier et al, 2019.

The evidence is stacking up in favour of dairy products

Overall, the results of this study agree with those of previous studies* suggesting that eating dairy foods is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. All the evidence to date indicates that eating yogurt is associated with a protective effect against diabetes, say the authors.

‘All meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies on yogurt consumption and diabetes risk published to date reported a protective association.’ – Drouin-Chartier et al, 2019.

The effects of cheese are less clear, say the authors. Although eating more cheese was associated with an increased risk of diabetes in this study, previous studies have linked cheese to a lower or unchanged diabetes risk. The answer to this conundrum may lie in the way cheese is being eaten. In the USA, cheese is often eaten in foods such as pizza and hamburgers which are high in refined carbohydrates that may increase diabetes risk, explain the authors.

‘Overall, our results suggest that replacing dairy products with high fat content, like cheese, with dairy products with lower fat content, like yogurt or reduced-fat milk, is associated with a lower risk of T2D [type 2 diabetes].’ – Drouin-Chartier et al, 2019.

*Drouin-Chartier J-P, Brassard D, Tessier-Grenier M, Côté JA, Labonté M-È, Desroches S, Couture P, Lamarche B. Systematic review of the association between dairy product consumption and risk of cardiovascular-related clinical outcomes. Adv Nutr 2016;7(6):1026–40.

Chen M, Sun Q, Giovannucci E, Mozaffarian D, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis. BMC Med 2014;12:215.

Find out more: read the original article.
Source: Drouin-Chartier JP, Li Y, Ardisson Korat AV et al. Changes in dairy product consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from 3 large prospective cohorts of US men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 019;110(5):1201-1212.

There’s mounting evidence about the role of yogurt consumption in reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Read more at these posts previously published on the YINI website:

Studies on adult population

Studies in children:

Also check out our infographic for a quick round-up of evidence:

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