Scientists believe that cheese and yoghurt may protect against type 2 diabetes

by Sarita Sheth on July 25, 2012

Can eating cheese reduce the risk of diabetes?

Scientists are to look further at how eating cheese might reduce the risk of developing diabetes after research found just two slices a day could be beneficial.

In the largest study of its kind scientists from the UK and Holland looked at how eating dairy products affected the development of type 2 diabetes. It had been thought that fattening items like cheese would not have a beneficial effect as they increase cholesterol and raise the risk of diabetes.

But instead they found no association between total dairy product intake and diabetes risk and now believe that the fermentation of cheese could trigger some kind of reaction that protects against diabetes.

‘This large prospective study found no association between total dairy product intake and diabetes risk. An inverse association of cheese intake and combined fermented dairy product intake with diabetes is suggested which merits further study,’ they concluded.

After studying the diets of 16,800 healthy adults and 12,400 patients with type 2 diabetes from eight European countries they found that those who ate at least 55g of cheese a day, around two slices, were 12% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The risk fell by the same amount for those who ate 55g of yoghurt a day.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicated that the so-called probiotic bacteria in cheese and yoghurt lower cholesterol and produce certain vitamins which prevent diabetes. And cheese, milk and yoghurt are also high in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, which may help protect against the condition.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to pass water frequently and constant tiredness.

Although the illness is treatable through methods such as dietary changes, tablets and injections, it can cause serious complications if not properly monitored.

But UK charity Diabetes UK is not convinced that people should start eating more cheese.

‘It is too simplistic to concentrate on individual foods. We recommend a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat. This study gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid the condition,’ said Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK.

Others pointed out that the researchers did not examine the types of cheese eaten to find out if they were low fat or high fat. Also the difference in risk varied widely from country to country. People in France who ate more cheese had a reduced risk, while those in the UK who ate more cheese were at increased risk.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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