Obesity and its related unhealthy effects like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems are rampant, but dairy products may be part of the solution. That’s a positive finding, too, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that by the year 2050, up to one-third of Americans may have diabetes. Presently, one in 10 U.S. adults has diabetes, so it’s expected to increase at least three-fold in the next few decades.
Unfortunately, even children and teens aren’t exempt from those staggering predictions. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine says that obese children and teens have a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes—a trend that has been steadily increasing. In fact, the prevalence of obesity in adolescents has nearly tripled in the past 20 years.
In turn, the childhood obesity epidemic increases the frequency of type 2 diabetes in kids. Dr. Francine Kaufman, director of the Comprehensive Diabetes Center at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, says, “We are seeing young people in their late teens who are already developing the complications of type 2 diabetes.”
Type 2 diabetes used to occur mainly in people over the age of 40, but now it affects more and more youth. That could be devastating, too, because the longer someone has diabetes, the greater the chances of developing disabling or life-threatening complications like kidney failure, limb amputations, heart disease and stroke—among others.
That’s where dairy may help.
Among some of the recent findings on the benefits of dairy consumption are that dairy may reduce the risk of diabetes. In particular, 3.5 daily servings of dairy vs. less than 0.5 servings can improve key metabolic risk factors—like type 2 diabetes—associated with obesity. Lead author of one study, Dr. Michael Zemel, says that dairy lowers blood insulin levels and increases insulin sensitivity, indicating a potential decreased risk for developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Gregory Miller, Ph.D., president of the Dairy Research Institute, says, “We have added to the science showing the value of dairy in a healthy eating plan and also have begun to see potential new benefits in the areas of type 2 diabetes, heart health, blood pressure health and body composition, including weight management. We continue to see evidence that meeting the recommended daily intake of three servings of dairy per day can provide extraordinary benefits.” On the other hand, under-consumption of milk and milk products is associated with an increase in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and poor bone health.
These studies featured conventional milk, of course, which I don't promote. But the health benefits of dairy caught my eye, even though I believe the healthiest dairy is grassfed, raw dairy from the best and healthiest dairy cattle possible. If raw dairy isn’t available, then organic, pasteurized, non-homogenized, full-fat, cultured dairy from cows, sheep, and goats is the way to go.