Fermented Dairy Intake Negatively Associated with Diabetes

A new epidemiological study followed about 16,000 people in Europe for about 12 years and focused on their dairy intake. Did the ones who came down with diabetes eat differently from those who didn’t?

The paper begins:

Current dietary guidelines for prevention of diabetes aim at substituting SFAs [saturated fatty acids] with unsaturated fatty acids. However, conventionally held notions that all SFAs, including those from dairy products, are detrimental to health have recently been challenged.

The shift of evidence (dairy less bad than previously believed) supports my view that what’s good for the brain (I found butter was good for my brain) is likely to be good for the rest of the body. The paper’s main conclusion is the possible protective value of cheese and yogurt:

This large prospective study found no association between total dairy product intake and diabetes risk. An inverse association of cheese intake and combined fermented dairy product [= cheese, yogurt, and "thick fermented milk"] intake with diabetes is suggested.

The combined fermented dairy association was not large in size (a risk reduction of 12%) but was significant (barely). When your main finding is barely significant you have no hope of using your data to explain it so the new information essentially stops there. The results support my view that fermented foods are unusually healthy.

In response to these findings, the director of research at Diabetes UK said, “This study gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid [diabetes].” Wow. It is as if a prominent physicist said the earth was flat.

Thanks to Elizabeth Molin.

8 Responses to “Fermented Dairy Intake Negatively Associated with Diabetes”

  1. wobbly Says:

    That Telegraph URL needs a quick trim of its last six characters.

    Seth: I fixed it, thanks.

  2. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Seth, did you see this other article from the Telegraph?

    Doctor diagnosed with terminal cancer survives after injecting himself with disused drug

  3. Shawn Says:

    I’m not sure if my earlier comment got through so I will repeat the gist of it: dairy causes acne for some people.

  4. dearieme Says:

    Seth, you mentioned Yakult yoghurt a few weeks ago. Do you know anything about how it compares with Actimel?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actimel

    Seth: No I don’t. Probably little difference.

  5. Adam Says:

    According to Dr. John Ioannidis (yo-NEE-dees), a renowned expert in evaluating medical studies, as many as 80% of the conclusions drawn from non-randomized trials are false; as many as 25% from randomized trials; and as many as 10% from the “platinum standard” *large* randomized trials.

    Old article, but well worth reading if you missed it: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/

    With that in mind, I DO believe that fermented foods probably ARE good for you, but this study by itself is not very good evidence for that idea.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know why they say Saturated fat causes Diabetes? What do they usually reference when they make that claim?

    Seth: “this study by itself is not very good evidence for that idea”? Since when is evidence one-dimensional? If you think about the many dimensions of evidence, I hope that you will realize that this study is very good on some of them (e.g., the dimension of realism, the dimension of practicality). I don’t agree with Ionnidis’s black and white view of research (it is either right or wrong), either. Imagine if someone said “80% of people are bad”.

  6. Adam Says:

    I think I answered my own question. Saturated fat doesn’t cause Diabetes.

    http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/fat-and-diabetes.html

    “Why should you eat less saturated fat? Because saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. People with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease and limiting your saturated fat can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”

    Does it?

    The Framingham study is often quoted as “proving” that eating Fat increases Serum cholesterol, so what did the researchers conclude?:

    “The failure to turn up any positive association between food intake and serum cholesterol level in the Framingham Diet Study led to the exploration of a large number of variant analyses. These were uniformly unsuccessful in finding expected relationships.”

    Hmmm…

  7. Adam Says:

    Seth, you said: “Since when is evidence one-dimensional? If you think about the many dimensions of evidence, I hope that you will realize that this study is very good on some of them (e.g., the dimension of realism, the dimension of practicality). I don’t agree with Ionnidis’s black and white view of research (it is either right or wrong), either. Imagine if someone said “80% of people are bad”.

    Maybe it’d help if I clarify what I meant by “bad”. I mean, the conclusion reached based on the evidence gathered has a high probability of being wrong. That doesn’t mean it IS wrong, but it means that the evidence isn’t very valuable to someone who values high quality evidence.

    With that said, it is absolutely hypocritical for the director of Diabetes research to dismiss it, since nearly ALL of the recommendations they DO support are based on Epidemiological evidence to begin with. It gives the impression that they are just picking & choosing willy-nilly which data to accept & which data to reject.

    Seth: “bad” evidence is inconclusive. it is evidence that doesn’t help much. When the evidence for an idea is “bad” it doesn’t imply that the hypothesis under consideration “has a high probability of being wrong”. I agree, Diabetes UK is just picking the evidence they like.

  8. Paul N Says:

    Slightly off topic, there is also some evidence, both historical and from studies, that probiotics are beneficial to dental health. Certain lactobacilli species compete for adhesion sites with the nasties that form dental caries. Some lead to increased saliva production, which also benefits teeth (and digestion).

    Some googling of umami and dental health turns up some interesting, though occaisionally conflicting, studies.

    I think this is further support for the umami hypothesis.

    I suspect that populations that traditionally ate lots of dairy (i.e. fermented) got good dental health as much from the probiotics as from the dairy itself.

    Of course, modern highly sweetened dairy products, fermented or otherwise, completely defeat the purpose…

    Seth: Interesting point, thanks. Hadn’t heard that before.