The current study evaluated information from more than 41,000 participants who did not have diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study began. Those men who reported developing type 2 diabetes during the study period completed a supplementary survey, which confirmed the diagnosis in about 1,200 participants. The researchers then analyzed the dietary information all participants provided in 1986, 1990 and 1994 to determine how diet related to their risk of developing diabetes.
Results showed that those men consuming higher levels of dairy foods had significantly less risk of developing type 2 diabetes than did those consuming the lowest levels, and further analysis showed the risk reduction was almost exclusively associated with low-fat or non-fat dairy foods. In general, each serving-per-day increase in dairy intake resulted in a 9 percent reduction in the risk of developing the disorder. Controlling for consumption of several other types of food, activity level and family history did not change the association.
"Additional studies will be required both to confirm this relationship and to see if the results apply to women or to men younger than this group, who were in their 50s when they joined the study," says Choi. "Another question to be investigated would be whether adjusting dairy intake could be helpful to people with established type 2 diabetes, and the mechanism behind any relation between dairy intake and diabetes risk also needs to be clarified."
Choi is an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His co-authors are senior author Frank Hu, MD, PhD; Walter Willett, MD, DrPH; Meir Stampfer, Md, DrPH; and Eric Rimm, ScD; all of HSPH and the Channing Laboratory at BWH. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.