Dairy Foods May Help Prevent Diabetes

Study Shows Women Who Ate Low-Fat Dairy Products Were Less Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on July 11, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

July 11, 2006 -- A diet rich in low-fat dairy products may cut a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study shows.

The report, published in the journal Diabetes Care, comes from researcher Simin Liu, MD, ScD, and colleagues. Liu works at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, and UCLA.

Liu's team didn't directly test dairy products for diabetes prevention, and they're not making any recommendations just yet. But the researchers noticed that over a decade, middle-aged women were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes if they frequently ate dairy products.

In fact, each additional daily dairy serving was associated with a 4% drop in diabetes risk, the researchers note.

Diabetes Data

Liu and colleagues analyzed data from the Women's Health Study, which included more than 37,000 female health professionals (average age: mid-50s). At the study's start, none had diabetes.

The women completed surveys about their eating habits. The questionnaires covered approximately 130 foods and beverages, including skim milk, whole milk, yogurt, sherbet, cottage cheese, ice cream, cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream.

The surveys also asked about the use of supplements containing calcium and vitamin D.

Other data covered BMI (body mass index), smoking status, alcohol use, exercise, other dietary factors (such as fiber consumption), use of postmenopausal hormone therapy, and family history of diabetes.

Diabetes & Dairy

The women were followed for a decade, on average. During that time, a total of 1,603 women were diagnosed with diabetes.

Women with the highest dietary calcium intake were about 20% less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than the ones who consumed the least amount of calcium.

Adjusting for diabetes risk factors didn't change the results, the researchers note. They add that the findings were stronger for low-fat dairy products than for high-fat dairy items.

Diabetes often goes undiagnosed. But in this study, 85% to 90% of the women got blood glucose (sugar) screenings for diabetes, which should have reduced the likelihood of undiagnosed diabetes cases, write Liu and colleagues.

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SOURCES: Liu, S. Diabetes Care, July 2006; vol 29: pp 1579-1584.

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