Dairy products associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds

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New research indicated that certain dairy products may help prevent type 2 diabetes (T2D), while red and processed meat could increase risk of the disorder.

The study, published in Diabetes Care, was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm, Sweden. The investigation was led by Annalisa Giosuè, PhD, of the Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery at the University of Naples Federico II, in Naples, Italy. For their study, Giosuè and a team of researchers sought to better understand the links between different animal-based foods and diabetes.

To do this, researchers conducted a review of existing meta-analyses on the subject. The team analyzed 13 different meta-analyses which included 175 estimates on how 12 animal products may increase or reduce risk of T2D. The products studied included total meat, red meat, white meat, processed meat, fish, total dairy, full-fat dairy, low-fat diary, milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs.

Results from the review suggested that consumption of 100 grams per day (g/day) of total meat increased the risk of T2D by 20 percent. In addition, the research showed that eating 100 g/day of red meat increased risk of T2D by 22 percent, and 50g/day of processed meat increased risk by 30 percent.

“There are several potential reasons for this,” said Giosuè in a statement. “For example, red and processed meat are important sources of components like saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and haem iron, all known to promote chronic low-level inflammation and oxidative stress, which, in turn, can reduce the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.”

White meat was associated with a four percent increase in diabetes risk. Researchers ranked the quality of their evidence as moderate. Giosuè explained that white meat has a lower fat content, a better fatty acid profile, and a lower amount of haem iron. Processed meats, on the other hand, contain nitrates and sodium, which can damage the pancreas’ insulin producing cells according to Giosuè.

The study also found that dairy products were associated with a reduced risk of T2D. Total dairy (200g/day) was linked to a five percent reduced risk of diabetes while 200g/day of milk was linked to a 10 percent reduction, and 200g/day of low-fat dairy and 100g/day of yogurt were associated with a three percent and six percent reduction in risk, respectively. Cheese and full-fat dairy did not appear to effect diabetes risk, according to the study.

Giosuè explained the results saying that vitamins, and other bioactive compounds found in certain dairy products may help improve glucose metabolism.

In addition, the study found fish (100g/day) and one egg per day had a neutral association with T2D.

According to Giosuè, more research is needed before official conclusions are made about the associations between dairy, meat, and T2D.

“Although more well-conducted research is needed to achieve high quality of evidence required to give solid recommendations, our extensive review of the scientific evidence shows that regular consumption of dairy foods in moderate amounts, especially low-fat products, milk and yogurt, may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” said Giosuè.