Helping Those at Risk for T2D with Dairy Foods

May 18, 2015

There’s no doubt about it, Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a devastating disease, and prevalence in this country and around the world is too high. However, did you know that dairy foods may help reduce the risk of T2D?

“You only have to spend five minutes talking to someone who has lost their sight or has lost a leg as a result of Type 2 diabetes to realize the devastating impact the condition can have,” said Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK. “As a country, we are sleepwalking towards a public health disaster of an almost unimaginable scale.”

In the U.S., one in three people have prediabetes and 90 percent are unaware of their risk –and may be “sleepwalking” toward their own health disaster. According to the CDC, if people with prediabetes make no lifestyle changes, progression to full-blown T2D could occur within five years.   

The good news is there are things people can do to avoid or delay the onset of T2D – and you can help people make those changes. Studies have shown that weight loss, increased physical activity, and eating plans characterized by fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy foods (Elwood, 2007Hirahatake, 2014) and a low glycemic load are associated with lower T2D risk. In contrast, meal plans that include high amounts of refined grains, processed meats, and added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages, are associated with increased risk of T2D.

However, we know very little about how eating more dairy foods affects insulin sensitivity and pancreatic β-cell function – factors that influence the progression toward T2D.

six-week randomized crossover trial recently examined this relationship in 33 adults at risk for T2D who routinely consumed sugar-sweetened beverages. When participants ate three servings of dairy foods (2 percent milk and unsweetened low-fat yogurt) compared to three servings of sugar-sweetened beverages and food (non-dairy pudding) in their every-day meal plans, they were better able to maintain glucose control according to some measures. Although more evidence is needed, these results could potentially indicate that the simple substitution of dairy foods for sugar-sweetened foods and beverages may help slow the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes.

Even as we await further research to clarify these relationships, you can help raise awareness about diabetes risk now. You can also help people make better nutritional choices, such as eating the recommended three servings of nutrient-rich dairy foods per day for Americans ages 9 years and older.

While your clients learn important Facts About Type 2 diabetes from the American Diabetes Association, you can read more about the growing body of science showing that dairy food consumption is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.