New research presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm, Sweden suggests that dairy products are associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study also showed that red meat and processed meats were linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for around 90% of all cases. It typically occurs in adults over the age of 40, though it is now increasingly being seen in younger age groups. The main risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity, and it is thought that the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can’t make enough insulin (the hormone which promotes the absorption of glucose from the blood into the body’s cells, maintaining normal blood sugar levels) and/or the insulin it makes doesn’t work properly (low insulin sensitivity). This leads to a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream, which can damage organs and lead to a range of serious health complications if left untreated. Some common complications of diabetes include kidney disease, heart disease, vision loss, and circulatory problems, which can lead to foot amputation.
This new study took a look at an existing guideline for the prevention of type 2 diabetes. It currently states that eating specific plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil can help to reduce the risk of diabetes. It also typically advises limiting the consumption of most animal products. However, it does not differentiate between animal products.
Not all sources of animal protein are nutritionally equal, so researchers wanted to find how different animal products are associated with type 2 diabetes to allow the guidelines to be updated.
After the study, researchers were able to show that there was a substantial increase in type 2 diabetes risk with the consumption of meat, including 100 g/day of total meat (20% increase in risk) and 100 g/day of red meat (22% increase) and with 50 g/day of processed meats (30% increase).
In contrast, dairy products reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes or had a neutral relationship with the development of the condition. Milk (200 g/day) was associated with a 10% reduction in risk, total dairy (200 g/day) with a 5% reduction in risk, and low-fat dairy (200 g/day) with a 3% reduction. Yogurt (100 g/day) was associated with a 6% reduction in risk.
Study author Dr. Annalisa Giosuè explained, “There are several potential reasons for this. For example, red and processed meat are essential sources of components like saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and heme iron, all known to promote chronic low-level inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn can reduce the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.
Dairy products are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and other bioactive compounds, which may favorably influence glucose metabolism—the processing of sugar by the body.”
Researchers did add that while it is clear that red and processed meats should be eaten sparingly, fish and eggs could be suitable substitutes.
Studies like this are vital in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. As one of the major causes of diet-related death worldwide, it is essential to learn more about how different dietary components increase or decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
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