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The FDA will allow yogurt brands to make limited claims that the food can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Yogurts will now be able to make qualified claims that they reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
  • The FDA states that there is scientific evidence for this claim, although it is limited.
  • It can be claimed that at least 2 cups (3 servings) weekly may provide this benefit.
  • However, nutritionists advise being cautious about eating yogurts with added sugar.
  • Other ways to reduce risk include lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.

On March 1, 2024, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement saying that it has no intention to object to companies making certain qualified health claims related to how eating yogurt might reduce type 2 diabetes risk.

They will be allowed to do this, the agency states, as long as the claims are not worded in a misleading manner.

Per the FDA, a qualified health claim has scientific evidence behind it but does not meet the more rigorous requirements for an authorized health claim.

This announcement came in response to a 2018 petition from Danone North America, the maker of yogurt brands including Dannon, Activia, and Horizon Organics.

The company’s petition noted that the health effects appear to be due to yogurt as a food rather than any particular ingredient in yogurt. This means the claim is independent of fat or sugar content.

The qualified health claims that the FDA will be allowing include the following:

  • “Eating yogurt regularly, at least 2 cups (3 servings) per week, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. FDA has concluded that there is limited information supporting this claim.”
  • “Eating yogurt regularly, at least 2 cups (3 servings) per week, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes according to limited scientific evidence.”

Miguel Freitas, PhD, Vice President of Health & Scientific Affairs at Danone North America, told Healthline that the claim was initially inspired by a study out of the Harvard School of Public Health that found that higher yogurt intake was linked with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes even though other forms of dairy were not.

Altogether, 32 studies, including 300,000 participants, were cited in Danone’s petition.

“Much of the research that exists in this area and was analyzed in review of this claim includes a variety of high quality prospective cohort studies, also called observational studies,” he added, “the majority of which provide direct or suggestive evidence that yogurt consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes when measured over time.”

Freitas went on to say that this type of data allows researchers to study large groups of people over longer periods of time in order to identify any possible associations between their habits and health outcomes such as the development of diabetes.

“While some consider randomized controlled trials, or studies that assign subjects to either a placebo or intervention group, to be stronger, they are challenging to apply to nutrition research such as that around yogurt and diabetes because they often lack suitable controls, don’t continue for a long enough period of time or are conducted in populations that aren’t representative of the average American,” he explained.

Freitas added that there have been some controlled studies looking at yogurt consumption and diabetes prevention. However, they have not been structured in a way that allows for yogurt to be compared to a suitable control.

Catherine Rall, Registered Dietitian at Happy V, said it really comes down to the fact that, while there is a correlation between yogurt consumption and not developing type 2 diabetes, that’s not the same as causation.

“While we can speculate that yogurt’s higher protein content gives it a lower glycemic index than higher-carb alternatives and that the probiotics in yogurt may play a role here, none of this can be conclusively proven,” she stated.

Regarding the sugar content of many yogurts, Freitas said, “… it’s important to note that much of the existing research on yogurt and type 2 diabetes does not distinguish between yogurts of varying sugar or fat content when illustrating a potential benefit, suggesting yogurt of any type could have a protective effect.”

Freitas further added that The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 does recommend limited added sugars to less than 10% of total calories while also stating that small amounts can be an acceptable part of an overall healthy diet, especially when it encourages people to select more nutritious foods like yogurt and allows people more flexibility in their diets.

However, Dan Gallagher, a Registered Dietitian with Aegle Nutrition, says not all yogurt is going to be created equal.

“Many yogurts end up being unhealthy because of the added sugars and preservatives added to make them more palatable,” he remarked.

“You’re going to be better off sticking with Greek yogurt or Skyr, which both have higher protein levels and very little added sugars or sweeteners,” said Gallagher.

Jenny Dobrynina, a Certified Nutritionist and Sports Dietetics Expert at Recipe from Chef, suggested several steps you can take outside of consuming more yogurt in order to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.

First, it’s important to eat a healthy diet. “I recommend a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins,” she said.

Additionally, Dobrynina suggests getting regular exercise in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Both diet and exercise can help with weight management, which she states can also reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Dobrynina further suggests avoiding excess sugar and refined carbohydrates.

It’s also a good idea to get regularly screened by your doctor through diabetes testing, she said.

Dobrynina also advises against smoking and excessive alcohol use. “Both these vices contribute to increased chances of type 2 diabetes,” she said.

Finally, she says it’s important to manage stress. “Reduce your stress because chronic stress is one of the premier reasons impacting blood sugar levels,” she noted.

The FDA has announced that it will be allowing yogurt manufacturers to make qualified claims about yogurt’s ability to prevent type 2 diabetes.

They will be allowed to state that eating at least 2 cups (3 servings) of yogurt weekly may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes.

However, they must specify that this is based on limited information.

While there is evidence of a link between eating more yogurt and protection against type 2 diabetes, it has not been proven that yogurt prevents type 2 diabetes.

Nutritionists say consumers should be cautious about consuming yogurts with added sugars and preservatives as these ingredients make yogurt less healthy.

Other ways to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes include eating a nutritious diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates, avoiding smoking or drinking too much, and managing stress.