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Researchers say some dairy products may help decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes. nomad studio/Stocksy
  • In a new study, researchers say red and processed meats can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • They add that some dairy products may help lower the risk slightly.
  • Experts encourage people to adopt a healthy diet that includes fish, grass-fed meat, and healthy fats.

Dairy products, especially low-fat varieties, may help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

That’s according to a new meta-analysis that researchers recently presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual meeting in Sweden.

In their review, the researchers reported that consuming animal products can affect a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

They reported that:

The review, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published yet, included 13 meta-analyses containing 175 estimates of how much 12 animal products could change the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

For the review, red meat included beef, lamb, and pork. Processed meat includes bacon, sausage, and deli meats. White meat included chicken and turkey.

The researchers concluded that:

  • Consuming 100g/day of total meat increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%
  • Consuming 100g/day of red meat increased the risk by 22%
  • Consuming 50g/day of processed meats increased the risk by 30%
  • Consuming 50g/day of white meat increased the risk by 4%

“High fats in red and processed meats can cause low levels of inflammation and stress in the cells, which damages the cells,” said Leslie C. Hussey Ph.D., RN, CNE, an academic and residency coordinator in the Nursing Ph.D. Program for the College of Nursing at Walden University in Minneapolis.

“Over time the cell membrane does not recognize or becomes less sensitive to insulin,” she explained to Healthline. “When this happens, sugar cannot cross into the cell. Then, blood sugar levels increase and type 2 diabetes develops.”

Researchers said dairy products had either no effect or a positive effect on the risk for type 2 diabetes:

  • 200g/day of milk lowered the risk by 10%
  • 200g/day of total dairy products reduced the risk by 5%
  • 200g/day of low-fat dairy lowered the risk by 3%
  • 100g/day of yogurt reduced the risk by 6%

Cheese and full-fat dairy did not seem to affect the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Annalisa Giosuè, a physician in the Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy and the lead author of the study, points out that because dairy products are rich in nutrients and vitamins, they might positively influence how the body processes sugars.

Dr. Megan Wroe, RD, CNE, CLEC, the wellness manager and registered dietician at the Wellness Center at Providence St. Jude Medical Center in California, says that generalizing that all low-fat dairy products lower the risk of type 2 diabetes is too broad of a statement.

Wroe explained that protein and fat in some dairy products can help minimize a blood sugar spike by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. Non-fat dairy, however, is missing the fat component.

“However, caloric needs are so very individual that someone needing to lose a large amount of weight, for instance, may lose that weight more effectively with the lower fat and lower calorie nonfat dairy, and losing the weight reduces their risk of diabetes,” Wroe told Healthline. “What was not mentioned was sugar content. Low-fat yogurt with added sugar for flavor impact diabetes risk very differently than plain low-fat yogurt.”

A diet for type 2 diabetes prevention should focus on reducing sugars, especially added sugars, and carbohydrates, according to Lauren Sepe, a clinical nutritionist at the Kellman Wellness Center in New York City.

“I recommend a diet that also addresses inflammation, which can put you at risk for diabetes and other chronic conditions,” she told Healthline.

Sepe suggests including the following foods in your diet:

  • Focus on lean protein, free-range protein, wild-caught fish, and seafood
  • Grass-fed meat in moderation as it contains a higher amount of naturally anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids as compared to conventional meats, which are higher in pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Healthy fats, including olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado
  • Plenty of non-starchy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds, in moderation – they are nutrient-dense and contain healthy fats but tend to be higher in calories
  • Low sugar fruits in moderation, including apples, citrus fruits, berries, and melons

“Eating plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil and limiting the amount of red and processed meats will help decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” said Hussey.

In addition to the foods you eat, Sepe says you should keep hydrated and get moving as moderate exercise can improve blood sugar levels.