A GLASS of milk a day slashes diabetes risk by ten per cent, research reveals.
Experts found moderate dairy consumption helps protect against the condition, which affects almost five million Brits.
One theory is that it contains key nutrients that boost the body’s ability to process sugar.
But researchers found regularly eating red meat raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The illness occurs when the body loses the ability to metabolise sugar, mainly as a result of weight gain and poor lifestyle.
Treating diabetes costs the NHS £10 billion a year and is responsible for one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs.
And it is one of the leading causes of blindness, amputation, stroke and heart disease.
Now research set to be presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm, shows eating dairy can help protect against the disease.
The Italian team analysed 13 major studies on diet and diabetes.
They found a daily glass of milk was associated with a ten per cent fall in risk, 200g a day of any dairy with a five per cent reduction, and a bowl of yoghurt with a six per cent drop.
But scoffing cheese, fish and eggs had no impact.
Lead researcher Dr Annalisa Giosuè, from the University of Naples Federico II, said: “Dairy products are rich in nutrients, vitamins and other bioactive compounds which may favourably influence glucose metabolism – the processing of sugar by the body.
“For example, whey proteins in milk are known to modulate the rise of blood sugar levels after eating.
“Probiotics are also known to exert beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, which may explain why we found that a regular consumption of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.”
Red meat was found to increase diabetes risk, with a 22 per cent rise in developing the disease for those consuming 100g daily – around half a small steak.
And just 50g of processed meat a day – around two rashers of bacon – increased chances by almost a third.
Dr Giosuè added: “Red and processed meat are important sources of components like saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and haem iron, all known to promote chronic low-level inflammation and oxidative stress, which can reduce the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.
“Processed meats also contain nitrates, nitrites and sodium which, among other adverse effects, can damage the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.”
Experts urged people to ditch red meat in favour of less risky proteins, such as fish and eggs.