Celebrate American Diabetes Month By Raising Your Glass of Milk
November is American Diabetes Month. This year’s theme, “Eat Well, America!sm “, aims to increase awareness of diabetes and encourage healthier food choices to help prevent and manage this disease. Although weight management and physical activity are key strategies to help prevent and manage Type 2 diabetes, other factors may have an important influence. A growing body of evidence suggests dairy may play a promising role.
Diabetes by the numbers.
Nearly 30 million U.S. children and adults are living with diabetes. Another 89 million Americans have prediabetes, which increases their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. About 95% of diabetes is Type 2, a condition in which the body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. Diabetes costs the nation an estimated $245 billion a year and is a leading cause of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and other complications. If steps are not taken to prevent Type 2 diabetes, its prevalence and consequences may become even more devastating.
Dairy’s role in type 2 diabetes.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicates that consuming milk and milk products is associated with reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes in adults. Since release of these guidelines, findings from recent studies support this association and suggest possible mechanisms.
While dairy nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D may be partly responsible for dairy’s observed protective effect for Type 2 diabetes, the following recent studies suggest that dairy protein and milkfat may also contribute to the findings.
- By improving insulin secretion and blood glucose levels, dairy foods and dairy proteins, particularly whey protein, may have a promising role in managing type 2 diabetes in adults, according to a systematic review of 28 clinical studies. The researchers suggest that increasing protein-rich dairy foods may be a relatively inexpensive and easily implemented way to help manage Type 2 diabetes.
- Consuming more dairy, particularly fermented dairy foods like cheese and yogurt may also be beneficial, according to a longitudinal study of more than 10,000 Brazilian adults. The researchers suggest that myristic acid, a saturated fatty acid in milkfat, may contribute to the observed protective association between dairy intake and Type 2 diabetes.
- Full-fat dairy foods like cream, butter, high-fat fermented milk, and cheese may also lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes when incorporated into a well-balanced diet. This was the finding of a prospective study of more than 26,000 Swedish adults. The researchers suggest that specific saturated fatty acids in milkfat may be responsible for the findings.
More research is needed to determine the role dairy foods may play in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, as well as identify possible mechanisms. Nevertheless, findings to date continue to support “eating well” by following a healthy eating plan that incorporates the recommended 3 daily servings of dairy foods for adults.