Drinking a glass of milk and eating a yoghurt every day may help to stave off type 2 diabetes, research suggests.
But too much red, processed and even white meats appears to have the opposite effect, according to the same study.
Italian researchers have now recommended fish and eggs as ‘good substitutes’ for meat-lovers, based on their new findings.
The findings come amid the rise of an anti-dairy health fad, which has seen advocates warn that whole milk, butter and cheese are high in calories and saturated fat and can lead to a cluster of health woes.
Italian researchers have found that consuming red and processed meats substantially increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by over 20%
Current NHS nutrition advice for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes recommends eating plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, pulses and lower-fat milk and yoghurts.
Consumption of animal products should also be limited.
However, the University of Naples Federico II experts argue that not all sources of animal protein are nutritionally equal.
Guidelines should be updated to reflect this, making it easier for people to choose the best foods to cut their risk of the condition.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells become resistant to insulin, the hormone which is responsible for keeping blood sugar stable.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
It’s a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
If left untreated it can be deadly, causing serious problems including heart disease, limb loss and even blindness.
The condition, dubbed a silent killer, affects roughly 4.5million Britons and more than 30million Americans.
The research will be presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm, Sweden next week.
The project assessed 13 previous meta-analyses — making it a ‘review of reviews’. In total, it involved 175 studies.
All of the studies looked at 12 different animal-based foods and the apparent knock-on effect of developing type 2 diabetes.
The products included: total meat; red meat (including beef, lamb and pork); white meat (chicken and turkey); processed meat (bacon, sausages and deli meat); fish; total dairy; full-fat dairy; low-fat dairy; milk; cheese; yogurt and eggs.
Dr Annalisa Giosuè and colleagues were, therefore, able to compare the risk of type 2 diabetes based on how much of each product people consumed.
When looking at the consumption of red meat, people who ate 100g/day were 22 per cent more likely to develop the condition, compared to people who ate less.
The risk was 30 per cent for 50g/day of processed meats, the equivalent of less than two slices of bacon.
Meanwhile, people who consumed 50g/day of white meat only faced a 4 per cent greater risk, compared to those who ate even less.
Dr Giosuè said: ‘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, in turn, can reduce the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.
‘Processed meats also contain nitrates, nitrites and sodium, which… can damage the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.’
In comparison, white meat contains a ‘lower fat content, a more favourable fatty acid profile and a lower amount of haem iron’, she added.
Dairy foods, meanwhile, appeared to either have a protective effect against type two diabetes or make no difference.
It all depended on whether they were low-fat or not, the results suggested.
People who consumed 200g of milk per day — the equivalent of a glass — were 10 per cent less likely to get diagnosed, compared to people who had less.
There was a 6 per cent lower risk among people who ate 100g of yoghurt each day.
But there appeared to be no visible effect for 30g of cheese per day, the equivalent of one-and-a-half mini Babybels.
The case was similar for 200g of full-fat dairy — which includes butter and heavy cream.
Dr Giosuè added: ‘Dairy products are rich in nutrients, vitamins and other bioactive compounds which may favourably influence glucose metabolism – the processing of sugar by the body.
‘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’.
Consuming 100g of fish and one egg per day also seemed to have no effect at all on the risk of developing the condition.
Dr Giosuè said: ‘While red and processed meat should be eaten sparingly, moderate amounts of fish and eggs could be good substitutes.’
Dr Giosuè, however, noted that the quality of evidence was low for all of the foods except meat.
The findings, which are published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice ahead of their unveiling, should, therefore. be treated cautiously, the team acknowledged.