A daily tablespoon of yogurt can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by nearly a fifth, according to a new Harvard study.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells develop resistance to insulin.
Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health pooled the results of three prospective cohort studies that followed the medical history and lifestyle habits of health professionals.
These studies included the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study (HFPS), which followed 51,529 US male dentists, pharmacists, vets, osteopathic physicians and podiatrists, aged from 40 to 75 years.
They also included Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), which began in 1976, and followed 121,700 female US nurses aged from 30 to 55 years and Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), which followed 116,671 female US nurses aged 25 to 42 years beginning in 1989.
“Our study benefited from having such a large sample size, high rates of follow up and repeated assessment of dietary and lifestyle factors,” said Mu Chen, the study’s lead author from Harvard School of Public Health.
Within the three cohorts 15,156 cases of type 2 diabetes were identified during the follow-up period. The researchers found that the total dairy consumption had no association with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
They then looked at consumption of individual dairy products, such as skimmed milk, cheese, whole milk and yogurt.
It was found that high consumption of yogurt was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The authors then conducted a meta-analysis, incorporating their results and other published studies, up to March 2013, that investigated the association between dairy products and type 2 diabetes.
This found that consumption of one 28g serving of yogurt per day was associated with an 18 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Previous research has suggested calcium, magnesium, or specific fatty acids present in dairy products may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
It has been shown that probiotic bacteria found in yogurt improves fat profiles and antioxidant status in people with type 2 diabetes and the researchers suggest this could have a risk-lowering effect in developing the condition.
“We found that higher intake of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas other dairy foods and consumption of total dairy did not show this association. The consistent findings for yogurt suggest that it can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern,” senior researcher on the study Frank Hu said.
The research was published in the journal BMC Medicine.