Thumbs up for yogurt (not the fat-free, over-sugared variety) – a probiotic effect?

YogurtA higher intake of yoghurt is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study has shown.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health pooled data from three large prospective cohort studies in which participants gave information about their dairy intake.1 People were excluded if they had diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at baseline, and they were followed up every two years, with a follow-up rate of >90%.

The research, published in BMC Medicine, included more than 41 000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 67 000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, and almost 86 000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II.

There were 15 156 cases of type 2 diabetes within the three cohorts in 3 984 203 person years of follow-up. After adjustment for age, body mass index, and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, total dairy consumption was not found to be associated with risk of type 2 diabetes. Among different types of dairy products, neither low fat nor high fat dairy consumption was associated with risk of type 2 diabetes. However, yoghurt intake was consistently associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes across the three cohorts, with a pooled hazard ratio of 0.83 for one 28 g serving a day.

The researchers then conducted a meta-analysis of these and other published studies. They found that eating one serving of yoghurt a day was associated with an 18% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The authors said that the strengths of their study had a large sample size, high rates of follow-up, and repeated assessments of dietary and lifestyle variables. However, diet was assessed by questionnaire, so may not be reliable, and the study population, which mainly consisted of health professionals of European ancestry, was quite homogeneous.

The researchers suggested that probiotic bacteria found in yoghurt may improve fat profiles and antioxidant status, but they said that randomised controlled trials would be needed to investigate whether or not there was a causal effect.

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