Home / Resources / Articles / A Glass of Milk a Day Keeps Diabetes Away

A Glass of Milk a Day Keeps Diabetes Away

Apr 22, 2002

If you are overweight, an increase in diary consumption can help to prevent diabetes. A diet high in dairy foods may help overweight adults reduce their risk of developing heart disease or late-onset diabetes, a study released Tuesday said.

Increased Dairy Intake Could Protect Overweight Adults From Diabetes. Increased dairy intake could protect overweight adults from developing insulin resistance syndrome (IRS), thus reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Evaluation of participants in a prospective, population-based study in the United States, the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, indicates dairy consumption is inversely associated with incidence of all IRS components among overweight adults.

This association was not observed among leaner study participants, say researchers from Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts; the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, United States.

Research indicates obesity, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia cause glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, hypertension and impaired fibrinolytic capacity. Age-adjusted prevalence of IRS (also called metabolic syndrome or syndrome X) among US adults is estimated at 24 percent.

CARDIA includes a general community sample based in four US metropolitan centres. Enrolled were 3,157 black and white adults aged 18 to 30 years. Participants were assessed over a 10-year period.

Dairy products were identified as any item that is either 100 percent dairy, such as milk, or that includes dairy as a main ingredient. At baseline, dairy products participants consumed most often were milk and milk drinks. Butter, cream and cheese were next in popularity.

"We observed inverse association between frequency of dairy intake and the development of obesity, abnormal glucose homeostasis, elevated blood pressure and dyslipidemia in young overweight black and white men and women," researchers state.

In fact, the volunteers who consumed dairy products five times a day were 72 percent less likely to develop IRS than their counterparts who were eating it less than twice a day on average.

The 10-year incidence of IRS was lower by more than two-thirds among overweight people in the highest category of dairy consumption, compared with those in the lowest. the investigators note: "These associations were not confounded by other lifestyle factors or dietary variables that are correlated with dairy intake and did not differ materially by race or sex."

Changing dietary patterns could be playing an important role in the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes and the plateau or increase in heart disease seen in the US in recent years. Dietary behavior trends indicate US children and adolescents are eating fewer dairy products, especially milk, but take in more soda pop and snacks.
Milk intake has decreased significantly over the past 3 decades while the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes has increased. "For most of the past 3 decades, the US Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association have recommended low-fat diets in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease," the authors write. "Some have questioned these recommendations out of concern that high-carbohydrate consumption might promote IRS."

It’s too early to tell whether it was "something intrinsic," to dairy products which was protecting the 20-somethings enrolled in the study or whether it was the overall composition of their diet that reduced their risk, said obesity expert David Ludwig.

It could simply be that the lactose, protein and fat in the dairy products was very filling and therefore the people in this group didn’t eat as much of the processed carbohydrates, candy or soda drinks that have been linked to IRS as other young adults in the study.

"More research is needed before changes in nutritional recommendations are considered," said Ludwig, senior author of the study and director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital, Boston.

JAMA, 2002; 287: 2081-2089. General Mills helped support this study.