Eating yogurt may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, FDA says

Food manufacturers can advertise that regular yogurt consumption can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes without receiving objections from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency announced Friday.

The decision was in response to a petition that Danone North America – the food giant that has brands such as Dannon, Activia, Wallaby Organic and Silk – filed in 2018. The company sought to get the FDA to acknowledge that it would not object if Danone marketed yogurt as a food that could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

There is limited evidence to suggest that regularly consuming yogurt, at least 2 cups (3 servings) a week, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.Kara Haupt/NBC News

The FDA confirmed Friday that it will not object to that claim, with some caveats. According to the agency, any information directed to consumers should indicate that the evidence is limited and that consumption of two cups (three servings) of yogurt per week is the threshold for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Danone filed its petition under a standard process for what the FDA calls “qualified health claims.” Such claims do not require agency approval, but companies are asking the FDA to define specific language that can be used without the agency penalizing them for making false claims.

Danone’s petition pointed to nutritional value of protein, vitamins and low sodium content of yogurtand studies supporting the relationship between regular yogurt consumption and a lower risk of diabetes and related conditions.

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“The petition also noted that the evidence supports the health effects of yogurt as a food and not in relation to a single nutrient or compound, so it is independent of fat or sugar content,” the FDA said in its announcement.

The sugar and fat levels of yogurt vary greatly, of course. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that although some types of low-fat or unsweetened yogurt are low in calories and are a healthy source of protein, vitamin D, and calcium, flavored yogurts They usually have a high added sugar content and its consumption should be limited. Research has long shown a link between high sugar consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Some of the evidence supporting the health benefits of yogurt comes from a 2022 study, which found that consumption of fermented dairy products, especially yogurt, “may offer protection against the development” of type 2 diabetes.

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Yogurt is also part of the Mediterranean diet, along with other staple foods such as fresh produce, whole grains, olive oil and fish. A 2020 study found that following this diet significantly reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, 2016 research found no relationship between dairy consumption and the disease.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, who provided scientific information to Danone when the company drafted its petition, said the FDA’s decision is sensible, “given the growing evidence of the health benefits of fermented yogurt in particular.”

But Mozaffarian, director of The Food as Medicine Institute at Tufts University, stressed that foods cannot be marketed as preventative or curative of a disease in the strict sense, because then they would be considered medicines.

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“I think this is an important problem for both the food industry and the FDA, because now that we know that foods are really medicines and that, in some cases, they can treat or cure diseases, there is no regulatory path to get to that point,” he stated.