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Protein is the most popular and effective supplement for increasing muscle mass. This popularity is on the rise with compelling research coming out about the role of protein in weight loss. High protein diets are now considered to be the best for muscle building, weight loss, and overall health.

Dairy proteins, particularly whey, are generally considered to be the most easily digested and best utilised proteins, and because of this, they dominate the market. As well as using dairy protein, dairy products are very popular amongst people who are looking after their bodies and health because of their multitude of beneficial properties.

Type 2 diabetes has been identified as one of the biggest health risks facing us in Australia, and there has been some concern over the role of dairy protein. Dairy has been shown, in previous studies to raise insulin levels. High insulin levels are associated with an anabolic state, but they are also thought to precipitate insulin resistance – a condition where the body becomes less receptive to insulin, considered to be a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

For this reason, there has been some concern that high consumption of dairy protein may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. A study has recently been conducted in Tehran that has drawn some very interesting conclusions.

The study followed 178 people with type 2 diabetes and 520 matched controls, obtaining detailed information on their eating habits, as part of a larger study called the Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study. One of the parameters measured was the relationship between the amount of dairy consumed, and the development of type 2 diabetes.

The authors of the study used multiple regression analysis to correct and adjust the data for a number of other factors that could also play a part in the development of diabetes. When the adjusted data were analysed, researchers found a negative correlation between dairy consumption and the likelihood of developing diabetes, which means that not only does dairy intake not cause diabetes, but may even offer a protective effect.

When this data was adjusted for gender, a strong correlation was found between gender and risk reduction in men, but not in women. The researchers estimated that every 100mL of dairy consumed per day could reduce risk of developing diabetes by a huge 41%.

This is no means the final word when it comes to research on diabetes and dairy products, but it represents an interesting addition to the research we have. In terms of other population studies, the Tehran study is small, and restricted to a specific population, meaning the results may be less applicable to us than a larger study involving a general population. It would be good to see this study reproduced on a larger scale.

In the meantime, we have many reasons to consume dairy products and dairy proteins, including their superior digestibility and ability to be utilised by the body, their high levels of beneficial minerals like calcium and phosphorous, and their benefit to muscle building and fat loss.

Moslehi N, Shab-Bidar S, Mirmiran P, Sadeghi M, Azizi F. Associations between dairy products consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: Tehran lipid and glucose study. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015 May 6:1-8

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