Dairy Health Benefits

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is on the rise in Australia, and indeed, worldwide. The good news is that up to 60 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented. A healthy, balanced diet is key to maintaining a healthy weight and preventing obesity – a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Did you know the foods you choose to eat can affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes? Some foods have even been linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The Australian Dietary Guidelines report that eating milk, cheese and yogurt is linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

A review which combined the effects of 16 separate studies and over 520,000 people, found higher intakes of all varieties of milk, yogurt and cheese was linked to a 11 % reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to people eating less dairy foods. Every 200 grams of total dairy foods was linked to a 6 % reduction in type 2 diabetes risk. A 20% drop in the risk of type 2 diabetes was reported for every 30 grams of cheese consumed per day.

REF: Gao et al., (2013) Dairy products consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. PLOS One 8 (9): e73965

How can dairy foods help diabetes management?

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt can play an important role in managing type 2 diabetes. For example milk and yogurt have a low glycaemic index (GI) so are ideal for people with diabetes. That’s because low GI foods help prevent large ups and downs of blood sugar levels. The glycaemic index ranks carbohydrate foods according to their effect on blood glucose (sugar) levels. The lower the GI, the slower the rise in blood glucose levels will be when the food is consumed. Foods with a GI 70 and above are classified as high GI foods. Foods with a GI 55 and below are low GI foods.

Carbohydrate containing dairy foods such as milk and yogurt are ideal low GI snacks and can be added as ingredients to lower the overall GI of a meal. This is due to the combination of dairy’s carbohydrate source (lactose) having a naturally low GI and the presence of protein which helps slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. A recent study showed a low-GI diet, which is high in dairy foods and fruit, but low in potatoes and cereals, improved insulin sensitivity in adults 65 years plus.*

The table below outlines the GI values of carbohydrate-containing dairy foods:

Australian Dairy Products  GI Rating 
Milk  Regular Fat  31 
Low-Fat  30 
Skim  20-34
Flavoured, Low-Fat  19 
Yogurt  Natural "fat free"  29-33 
  Strawberry flavoured, "fat free" (artificially sweetened)  19-23 
Custard  Vanilla, Low-Fat  29 
Ice cream  Vanilla, Low-Fat  47 

Sydney University’s Glycemic Index Research Service (Human Nutrition Unit, University of Sydney, Australia), unpublished observations, 1995-2007. Available at: http://www.glycemicindex.com/

*Du H et al (2008) Glycemic index and glycemic load in relation to food and nutrient intake and metabolic risk factors in a Dutch population. Am. J Clin. Nutr. 87: 655-61.

Read more about dairy foods and diabetes in our Diabetes fact sheet.