Four or five pots of yoghurt per week may reduce our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, scientists have said.
In a large study, which examined an as yet unexplained link between some dairy products and a lowered risk of diabetes, researchers at the University of Cambridge found that risk was reduced by 28 per cent in people who ate a large amount of yoghurt to those who ate none.
Dairy products an important source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and the reduced risk also applied to other low-fat, fermented products such as fromage frais and low fat cottage cheeses.
While the study could not prove a conclusive causal link between eating dairy and lower diabetes risk, the association was strong. Scientists suspect that fermented dairy products are beneficial because of the probiotic bacteria, as well as a special form of vitamin K produced during the fermentation process - however the cause is not fully understood.
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The study compared the dietary habits of 750 people who developed type 2 diabetes with those of a randomly selected cohort of 3,500 people who took part in a wide-ranging diet study in Norfolk. Benefits associated with yoghurt were seen in people who ate on average four and a half standard pots of yoghurt per week.
The study was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for Diabetes.
Lead scientist Dr Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, said that the findings may be relevant for public health messages.
"At a time when we have a lot of other evidence that consuming high amounts of certain foods, such as added sugars and sugary drinks, is bad for our health, it is very reassuring to have messages about other foods like yoghurt and low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for our health," she said.