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Could Low-Fat Yogurt Help Ward Off Diabetes?

British study also found reduced risk with other fermented dairy products

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For the study, Forouhi and colleagues collected data on 4,255 men and women who were part of a larger British study. This group included 753 people who developed type 2 diabetes over 11 years of follow-up and 3,502 randomly selected people for comparison.

Looking at these people's diets, the researchers found that the amount of high-fat dairy or total low-fat dairy was not linked to the risk of developing diabetes -- once factors like healthy lifestyles, education, obesity, other eating habits and total calorie intake were taken into account.

Milk and cheese consumption was also not associated with the risk of developing diabetes.

But what was significant was the amount of low-fat fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, fromage frais (a fresh, low-fat curd cheese similar to cottage cheese), and low-fat cottage cheese participants ate, Forouhi's group found.

For those who ate the most of these foods, the risk of developing diabetes shrank 24 percent, compared with those who didn't eat any, the study found.

When the investigators looked specifically at yogurt, the risk of developing diabetes was reduced by 28 percent.

The lowered risk was seen among people who ate about 4.5 standard 125-gram cups (about 4.4 ounces each) of yogurt a week. This was also the case for other low-fat fermented dairy products, such as low-fat unripened cheeses, including fromage frais and low-fat cottage cheese, the researchers reported.

In addition, eating yogurt instead of other snacks, such as chips, further cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, they noted.

Including fermented foods like yogurt as part of an overall healthy diet is a good idea but is not the whole story, nutritionist Heller said.

"A primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese," Heller said. "Regular exercise, shifting to a more plant-based diet and reaching and maintaining a healthy weight will go a long way in helping to prevent type 2 diabetes."

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