The Impact of Dairy Products in the Development of Type 2 Diabetes: Where Does the Evidence Stand in 2019?

Adv Nutr. 2019 Nov 1;10(6):1066-1075. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz050.


The prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has increased rapidly. Adopting a heathy diet is suggested as one of the effective behaviors to prevent or delay onset of T2D. Dairy consumption has been recommended as part of a healthy diet, but there remains uncertainty in both the scientific community and the public about the effect of different dairy products on T2D risk. In a recent workshop, the evidence on dairy products and T2D risk was presented and discussed by a group of experts. The main conclusions from the workshop are presented in this position paper and are as follows. 1) Available evidence from large prospective cohort studies and limited randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggests that total dairy consumption has a neutral or moderately beneficial effect on T2D risk. 2) Increasing evidence from prospective cohort studies indicates that yogurt is most strongly associated with a lower T2D risk, but evidence from RCTs is scarce. 3) Fatty acids from dairy (medium-chain, odd, and very long-chain SFAs as well as trans-palmitoleic acid) are associated with lower T2D risk and improved metabolic health, but more research is needed on studies that explore cause and effect relations to exclude the possibility that the dairy fatty acids simply serve as markers of overall dairy consumption. 4) The food matrix can be a stronger determinant of health effects than SFA content. This review further identifies research gaps in the existing knowledge and highlights key research questions that need to be addressed to better understand the impact of dairy consumption on future T2D risk.

Keywords: cheese; dairy; milk; type 2 diabetes; yogurt.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dairy Products*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / prevention & control
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / therapeutic use
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Yogurt


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • palmitoleic acid