Can yogurt help ward off diabetes?

Also: the e-cigarette debate

Just how safe are e-cigarettes?

There is considerable debate right now about whether e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking or a gateway from smoking. For many adults age 50 and older, e-cigarettes may be a great way to transition off smoking. Ideally, if millions of people start using e-cigarettes as an aid to quit there could be a huge public health benefit. However, some health experts question whether e-cigarettes are just “an add-on” for chronic smokers and may be creating new problems. Currently, there are no good, strong scientific studies to show if e-cigarettes are going to help improve public health or worsen it.

Researchers in Italy are concerned that the pharmaceutical industry, tobacco industry and tax-hungry governments will push for heavy regulation that may unnecessarily discourage the use of something that may have significant public health benefit. Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy have just published an article in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease that suggests there may be significant misguided legislation based on concerns that are not backed by sound data. The Italian researchers say this misguided legislation may have unintended consequences for public health.

They note that there are almost six million premature deaths each year due to smoking, so just how e-cigarettes are regulated could make a huge impact. Tar, chemicals and other substances found in tobacco smoke cause most of the health risks from cigarettes. E-cigarettes aim to circumvent these risks by delivering nicotine without the smoke.

The number of people of all ages using e-cigarettes is going up dramatically and many users see the clear benefit from e-cigarettes over smoking. However, detractors say that these products will appeal to our kids and grandkids and make smoking publicly acceptable once again. However, the Italian public health researchers say these claims are mostly theoretical and not backed by scientific evidence. In addition, they say it may be counter-productive and even hypocritical to over-regulate a product designed to reduce early deaths caused by smoking.

Eating yogurt may help lower risk for diabetes

A new British study is suggesting that eating yogurt on a regular basis (compared with no consumption) can reduce the risk of new-onset type-2 diabetes by 28 percent. Scientists at the University of Cambridge are now reporting that higher consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products, which include all yogurt varieties and some low-fat cheeses, may help reduce the relative risk of diabetes by 24 percent overall.

“At a time when we have a lot of other evidence that consuming high amounts of certain foods, such as added sugars and sugary drinks, is bad for our health, it is very reassuring to have messages about other foods like yogurt and low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for our health,” said study investigator Dr. Nita Forouhi, who is with the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

It is well known that dairy products are an important source of high quality protein, vitamins and minerals. However, they are also a source of saturated fat, which dietary guidelines currently advise people not to consume in high quantities. Previous studies on links between dairy product consumption (high fat or low fat) and diabetes have been inconclusive.

Researchers at University of Cambridge examined the risk of diabetes in relation to the consumption of total dairy products and also types of individual dairy products in a study that included more than 25,000 men and women.

They found that those with the highest consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products (such as yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese) were 24 percent less likely to develop type-2 diabetes over a study period of 11 years. This risk reduction was observed among individuals who consumed on average 4 servings of yogurt a week.

While this type of study does not prove that eating dairy products reduces the risk of diabetes, dairy products do contain beneficial constituents such as vitamin D, calcium and magnesium. In addition, fermented dairy products may exert beneficial effects against diabetes through probiotic bacteria and a special form of vitamin K associated with fermentation, according to the researchers.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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