Yogurt Consumption Trims Type 2 Diabetes Risk

February 10, 2014
Mark L. Fuerst

Consuming yogurt and other low-fat, fermented dairy products can reduce the risk of type 2 DM, according to a new study.

Consuming yogurt and other low-fat, fermented dairy products can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), according to a new study.

“At a time when other research has shown that certain foods raise health risks, such as regularly consuming sugary drinks or higher amounts of red and processed meat, it is reassuring to have messages about other foods, like yogurt and other low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for health,” senior author Nita Gandhi Forouhi, MRCP, PhD, Programme Leader at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge, UK, told ConsultantLive.

The nature of the association between dairy products and type 2 DM remains unclear, prompting Dr Forouhi and colleagues to carry out research based on the large EPIC-Norfolk study, which includes more than 25,000 men and women living in Norfolk, UK. The researchers collected detailed daily records of all the food and drink consumed over 1 week at the time of study entry by 753 persons in whom new-onset type 2 DM developed over 11 years of follow-up, as well as 3502 randomly selected study participants.

The prevalence of type 2 DM was 24% less in those who consumed the most low-fat fermented dairy products (eg, yogurt, fromage frais, and low-fat cottage cheese) than in the nonconsumers of these products. The analyses accounted for some important factors that can affect both the intake of low-fat dairy products and the risk of DM, such as levels of obesity; lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, intake of other foods, and total calorie intake; and education and family history of DM.

Yogurt, which made up more than 85% of these products, was associated with a 28% reduced risk of DM. Those who consumed yogurt in place of a portion of other snacks, such as potato chips (called crisps in the UK), also had a reduced risk of type 2 DM, Dr Forouhi noted.

“This risk reduction was observed among those who consumed an average of 4 ½ standard 125-gram (about 4.5 ounces) pots of yogurt per week. This should be consumed within an overall healthy diet,” she recommended.

In the study, total dairy intake in grams per day was estimated and categorized into high-fat and low-fat dairy and by subtype into yogurt, cheese, and milk. Combined fermented dairy product intake (yogurt, cheese, sour cream) was estimated and also categorized into high-fat and low-fat.

“We acknowledge the limitations of dietary research that relies on asking people what they eat and not accounting for change in diets over time, but the study was large with long follow-up and had detailed assessment of people’s diets that was collected in real-time with a food diary as people consumed the foods, rather than relying on past memory,” Dr Forouhi said.

Several compounds found in dairy products likely contribute to their beneficial effects on DM risk; these compounds include calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D (in fortified dairy). “Fermented dairy products such as yogurt and other low-fat fermented dairy products may be additionally protective against diabetes as they also contain probiotic bacteria and a specific form of vitamin K produced by microbes,” she stated.

Current US dietary guidelines recommend the daily intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. “Recommending yogurt intake is therefore in keeping with dietary guidelines,” Dr Forouhi noted.

The researchers published their results in the January 7, 2014 issue of Diabetologia.

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