Why yogurt lowers the risk of developing diabetes

Scientists have known for some years that eating yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, but the reasons behind this protective effect were unclear. A study published in Nature Communications  reveals that this protection could come partly from the gut microbiota as well as from specific metabolites produced by the lactic bacteria in yogurt.

“These metabolites, called branched chain hydroxy acids (BCHA), result from the action of yogurt lactic bacteria on naturally occurring amino acids in milk,” explains co-lead author. “

The researchers made this discovery when observing the effects of yogurt on mice fed a diet rich in sugars and fats. One of the groups was given the equivalent of two daily servings of yogurt. After the 12-week experiment, the researchers found better control of blood sugar, insulin resistance, and liver function in the yogurt fed group. They then analyzed all the metabolites present in their livers and observed changes in BCHA.

“In the group that was not given yogurt, the amount of these metabolites in the bloodstream and in the liver decreased with weight gain. In the yogurt group, the amount of BCHA was partially maintained,” explains the researcher. “We also found that an abundance of BCHA in the liver was tied to improved fasting glucose and hepatic triglycerides.” 

“BCHA are found in fermented dairy products and are particularly abundant in yogurt. Our body produces BCHA naturally, but weight gain seems to affect the process,” adds co-lead author. A next step could now be to determine whether dietary intake of BCHA can offset the decrease associated with weight gain and help restore normal metabolic function in obese people.