Consuming yogurt regularly may help reduce a person's risks for Type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle disease that now affects an increasing number of Americans.

A new study published in the journal BMC Medicine on Nov. 25 reveals that individuals who have a daily serving of yogurt have reduced odds of developing type 2 diabetes.

Study researcher Frank Hu, from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues hypothesized that the antioxidants and probiotics present in yogurt could have a positive effect on a person's odds of developing the metabolic disease.

For their study, Hu and his team examined the results of three earlier studies that looked at the lifestyle habits and medical history of the participants, who were asked to complete a questionnaire about their diet and history of chronic diseases with the data updated every four years.

The researchers found that while total dairy consumption did not appear to be associated with risks for Type 2 diabetes (T2D), yogurt consumption seems to offer some benefits. 

The participants who consumed an average of 12 ounces of yogurt a day were marked by 18 percent reduced odds of developing diabetes compared with those who only consume an average of 4 ounces of yogurt a day.

"We found that higher intake of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas other dairy foods and consumption of total dairy did not show this association," Hu said. "The consistent findings for yogurt suggest that it can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern."

The researchers noted that since they were not able to determine the types of yogurt that the participants consumed, it would be difficult to tell which of the yogurt's components is responsible for the benefit.

Hu and colleagues though have several theories on why yogurt may help reduce risks for diabetes and this includes the benefits offered by the probiotic bacteria present in the dairy product. An earlier study conducted by the researchers also showed that increased yogurt consumption is inversely associated with weight gain.

"Probiotic bacteria have been shown to improve lipid profile and antioxidant status in T2D patients and have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels," the researchers wrote. "In addition, our previous study of the three cohorts showed that increased consumption of yogurt was inversely associated with weight gain."

Still the researchers pointed out that their observational study does not prove a cause and effect relationship and that further studies are still needed to determine the effects of yogurt and probiotics on weight and insulin resistance.

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