Can Yogurt Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | August 25, 2016

Type 2 diabetes is a national and global health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It has deleterious effects on the body, from an increased risk of heart disease to the loss of vision. Factors that put you at a greater risk of diabetes include chronic inactivity, obesity, and a poor diet – especially one that lacks fruits and vegetables, is high in sugar and saturated fat, and consists of highly processed foods. However, new evidence suggests that eating yogurt is a possible preventative measure against type 2 diabetes.

In 2010, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found that dairy products, including yogurt, may help lower the risks of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as reduce high blood pressure. The meta-analysis showed that total dairy intake, as well as low-fat dairy intake, were inversely related to the likelihood of developing diabetes. This means that the greater the dairy intake, the lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, the study found an even stronger inverse relationship between yogurt intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes. One theory on why this is the case suggests that the process of fermentation that produces yogurt may modify milk in a way that benefits our health. Additional studies need to be conducted to support these findings, but in the meantime, we can still benefit from eating yogurt.

Aside from its potential as a preventative measure against type 2 diabetes, yogurt has many other health benefits. Plain Greek yogurt, for example, is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients. In moderation, nonfat varieties can also aid in weight loss and weight management, thanks to their high protein content. Plus, probiotics in yogurt help improve digestive health and immune functions.

Yogurt can be added to many meals and snacks. It can be used as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise in almost anything from chicken salads and coleslaws to tacos. It’s also a rich and delicious addition to your next smoothie! While I recommend consuming yogurt daily, be aware of the added sugar and artificial flavors and coloring. It’s better to consume nonfat plain Greek yogurt or nonfat plain Scandinavian yogurt and add fresh fruits, oats, nuts and seeds than to choose sugar flavored, artificially colored yogurt cups and snacks. Try the Peaches and Cream Workout Smoothie or the Sweet Berry Smoothie to get your Greek yogurt fix.

While more research is needed to better understand the relationship between yogurt and type 2 diabetes, the evidence looks promising. If yogurt really can lower the risk of diabetes, we’ll have one more reason to enjoy it! For now, we can continue to reap all of the other health benefits that yogurt has to offer while maintaining a healthy, balanced, and active lifestyle to keep type 2 diabetes at bay.


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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