Milk and Diabetes

Milk and Diabetes

Jürgen Schrezenmeir, PhD, and Alexandra Jagla, Ph.D.

Institute of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition, Federal Dairy Research Center, Kiel, Germany

Type 1 diabetes is based on autoimmunity, and its development is in part determined by environmental factors. Among those, milk intake is discussed to play a pathogenic role. Geographical and temporal relations between type 1 diabetes prevalence and cow’s milk consumption have been found in ecological studies. Several case-control studies found a negative correlation between frequency and/or duration of breast-feeding and diabetes, but this was not confirmed by all authors. T-cell and humoral responses related to cow’s milk proteins were suggested to trigger diabetes. The different findings of studies in animals and humans as well as the potential underlying mechanisms with regard to single milk proteins (bovine serum albumin, 13-1actoglobulin, casein) are discussed in this review. In contrast to type 1 diabetes, the etiology of type 2 diabetes, characterized by insulin resistance is still unclear. In a population with a high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, the Pima Indians, people who were exclusively breastfed had significantly lower rates of type 2 diabetes than those who were exclusively bottlefed. Studies in lactovegetarians imply that consumption of low fat dairy products is associated with lower incidence and mortality of diabetes and lower blood pressures. In contrast, preference for a diet high in animal fat could be a pathogenic factor, and milk and high fat dairy products contribute considerably to dietary fat intake. Concerning milk fat composition, the opposite effects of various fatty acids (saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid) in vitro, in animals and in humans have to be considered.

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