Eating Yoghurt Could Cut The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

| March 27, 2014

In an earlier blog post, I discussed research findings on dairy products and diabetes risk. While these showed some conflicting results regarding cheese consumption, fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt, did seem to stand out as having a positive effect on reducing the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Recently, a study carried out at Cambridge University has lent further weight to that idea.

The research was based on the EPIC-Norfolk epidemiological study, which compiled health and lifestyle data on more than 25,000 men and women living in Norfolk. It showed that higher consumption of yoghurt (four to five small pots a week) could reduce the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes by 28 per cent, compared with zero consumption. Other fermented dairy products, such as crème fraiche, cottage cheese and fromage frais, were also associated with reduced diabetes risk.

Epidemiological studies of this kind can only make associations between events; they can’t actually demonstrate cause and effect. For instance, people who eat yoghurt on a regular basis may also tend to have a healthier lifestyle that involves more exercise, which also contributes to a reduction in diabetes risk. However, this was a large study with a long follow-up period (11 years) and involved detailed assessment of dietary information collected in real-time as people consumed the foods, rather than relying on their general estimates of consumption. This helps to make the association more certain and suggests that eating yoghurt does in fact help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

So, how might yoghurt have this beneficial effect? The jury is still out, but there are some interesting ideas. A recent review suggested that dairy components could alter the function of mitochondria (the energy-producing bodies within cells), change the balance of gut microbes, reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular function. In addition, fermented dairy products contain vitamin K2, which is only made by bacteria and so is only present in dairy products such as yoghurt, which have undergone bacterial fermentation.

Some studies suggest that vitamin K2 could reduce diabetes risk through lowering inflammation, which appears to be a central cause of diabetes and many of its complications, as I explained in a recent blog post. Vitamin K2 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in a placebo-controlled trial involving healthy young men undergoing glucose tolerance testing. Animal studies have also found that vitamin K2 prevents hyperglycaemia (dangerously high blood sugar) in diabetic rats.

Make the most of fermented dairy foods

All of this suggests that eating yoghurt on a regular basis could be a good move if you have, or are at risk of developing, type 2 diabetes. It also helps to explain why traditional diets around the world contain fermented milk and soured cream products, many of which are claimed to have health benefits. In addition to yoghurt, which originated in central Asia, there are buttermilk and kefir from Eastern Europe, leben from Israel and countless others. They are cultured with various strains of Lactobacillus bacteria, or with a mixture of bacteria and yeasts.

Getting more of these products into your diet is simple. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

• Use yoghurt, buttermilk or kefir, diluted with water, instead of milk on muesli or breakfast cereals.

• Use crème fraiche instead of cream as a topping for desserts (the sugar-free kind, of course!) and fresh fruit.

• Use buttermilk instead of regular milk for making bread, crumbles and cakes.

• Have cottage cheese in your sandwiches or salads, in place of hard cheese.

• Blend yoghurt or fromage frais with fresh fruit to make healthy smoothies.

• Mix crème fraiche with a spoonful of organic cocoa powder and a pinch of stevia for a guilt-free chocolate mousse.

If you would like to have a go at making yoghurt, buttermilk, kefir or crème fraiche at home, you can find the recipes here.

I have not made any mention here of using low-fat as against full-fat yogurt, cottage cheese and other fermented dairy products. Contrary to the conventional advice, I do not recommend cutting out saturated fats for people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease or any other health problems. It is the combination of a high intake of sugar together with a high intake of saturated fats and trans fats that does the damage.

This view was recently aired by a leading cardiovascular research scientist in the journal Open Heart. He explains why the demonization of saturated fats for the last 60 years was wrong and has not cut heart disease or saved lives – on the contrary, it has been a medical disaster. I shall be telling you more about this in my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. O’Connor LM1, Lentjes MA, Luben RN, Khaw KT, Wareham NJ, Forouhi NG. Dietary dairy product intake and incident type 2 diabetes: a prospective study using dietary data from a 7-day food diary. Diabetologia. 2014 Feb 8 (Online ahead of print).

2. Hirahatake KM, Slavin J, Maki KC, Adams SH0. Associations between dairy foods, diabetes and metabolic health: potential mechanisms and future directions. Metabolism. 2014 Jan 29 (Online ahead of print).

3. Choi HJ, Yu J, Choi H, An JH, Kim SW, Park KS, Jang HC, Kim SY, Shin CS. Vitamin K2 supplementation improves insulin sensitivity via osteocalcin metabolism: a placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2011; 34(9):e147.

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