Figures from the national charity Diabetes UK in 2014 estimated that over 700 people a day are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in this country alone. The statistics are sobering, especially when considering that this amounts to one diagnosis every two minutes.Meanwhile, the charity also estimated that around 590,000 people in the country do not yet have a diagnosis and are living with the condition without realising it. The number diagnosed with diabetes has been rising dramatically for the last few years, with the figure doubling in less than ten years, from 1.6 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2014, and it is likely that it is even higher now in 2018.
While the figures are alarming and a diagnosis of diabetes must be taken extremely seriously, at the same time, extensive research is taking place around the condition. It has long been known that avoiding becoming overweight or obese and eating a healthy diet go a long way towards reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but are there certain foods which are specifically linked to a reduced risk of the disease?
The Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, in collaboration with Dutch Dairy Association, and Friesland Campina, is currently reviewing data and pulling together the evidence that examines the links between dairy products and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The emerging evidence suggests that, alongside a wide range of other health benefits, dairy foods, and fermented dairy foods in particular (e.g. yoghurt) may help to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, although more work must still be done to develop this research. Director of the IFNH Professor Ian Givens was involved in an earlier review study in 2016 which indicated that, despite scepticism about the health effects of dairy products from the public, intake of milk or dairy products in adults was associated with a neutral or improved risk of developing type 2 diabetes. You can read this paper in full here .
Meanwhile, another paper co-authored by Professor Julie Lovegrove, Director of the University of Reading’s Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, and Professor Givens showed a post-prandial stimulation of insulin by whey protein. It is suggested that this may be one of the mechanisms whereby certain products containing dairy protein have a beneficial effect on type 2 risk, but further research is needed to confirm this. You can read this paper in full here.
A meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Gijsbers et al. suggests that plain yoghurt, in particular, may be associated with the reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. While the paper cautions that randomised controlled trials are needed to confirm this link, it also proposes the possible reason being yoghurt’s beneficial metabolic effects may be due to probiotic bacteria present in it. Yoghurt also contains vitamin K-2 (menaquinone), which is also associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in a large prospective cohort, although the study also noted that cheese contained the same vitamin but did not appear to display the same beneficial effect on reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. You can read the paper in full here.
While more work must still be done to ascertain the link between dairy and any benefit it may have in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, it is clear that the inclusion of dairy products in your daily diet can be extremely beneficial for your health. Diabetes UK offers a number of helpful tips with regards to lowering the risk of developing the condition, and while changing your diet may not prevent diabetes completely, it can certainly go some way towards reducing your risk as well as improving your health overall.