Dairy and diabetes


Milk has previously been linked to diabetes in a negative manner although new research suggests milk may have a protective effect.

Type 1 diabetes

Early introduction of cow’s milk to a baby’s diet has been suggested to be associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. Limited research has linked the cows' milk protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA) to increased risk of type 1 diabetes in susceptible children.

However, findings from multiple scientific studies fail to support a positive association between cows' milk proteins and type 1 diabetes and the evidence to date does not support a recommendation to avoid cows' milk during childhood or to change current infant feeding guidelines to reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Diet is an essential component of successful diabetes management.

Individuals with diabetes are recommended to consume a healthy balanced diet low in fat (particularly saturated fat), high in fiber and complex carbohydrates (that release sugar slowly) and low in salt and alcohol.
More specifically, research shows that dairy foods and milk can be protective against diabetes and insulin resistance in overweight adults.

The CARDIA study showed overweight people who consumed greater than 5 servings/day of dairy had an approximately 70% lower incidence of type-2 diabetes than those who consumed a few dairy products (less than 1.5 servings per day).

The results of the Caerphilly study carried out in older men in Wales, suggested milk protects against diabetes.

In addition, a 10 year study of over 37,000 middle aged women found that dairy intake was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants with the highest intakes of over 2.9 servings per day had a 21% reduced risk compared with those who consumed less then 0.85 servings per day. This study also found that every additional serving of dairy consumed, was associated with a 4% decrease in risk.

It may be the calcium in dairy that helps to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, as emerging evidence shows a high calcium intake is associated with lower insulin resistance. In addition to this, people with a high calcium intake have a lower prevalence of obesity. One recent study found that an increase in calcium intake in obese girls may be associated with a decrease in body fat and insulin resistance.
It has recently been suggested that low-fat dairy may lower the risk of diabetes by increasing the body’s production of a hormone called adiponectin. Adiponectin is a hormone involved in fat and blood sugar metabolism and has been shown to improve the body’s response to insulin and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Milk also has a low glycemic index (GI). GI is the scale used by scientists to measure the speed at which glucose is absorbed from the intestine into the blood stream, and by how it raises glucose levels in the blood. This is described as the glycaemic effect of foods and the GI quantifies the glycaemic effect.

This scale runs from 0-100. Diabetes patients are recommended to eat foods with a low GI, as the glucose is released at a slower rate from these foods and helps keep blood glucose levels relatively constant. Skimmed milk and plain yogurt are ideal low GI-foods

A recent study showed a low-GI diet, which is high in dairy and fruit, but low in potatoes and cereals, improved insulin sensitivity in subjects aged 65 years plus. A Low-GI diet may have a role to play in the management of type-2 diabetes. .


For more information about diabetes in general why not visit NHS direct. or Diabetes UK .

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