Are Dairy Products Bad for Blood Sugar?

Are Dairy Products Bad for Blood Sugar?

The jingles of ice cream trucks are a magnet for kids, but this treat can be unhealthy for those who have or are at risk of Type I or II diabetes if produced from whole milk. Cheese, eggs, and milk are not linked to high blood sugar. But, high glucose lab results often are found in tandem with high triglycerides. Heart disease is a major complication of diabetes due to abnormally elevated triglyceride levels.


Low-Fat vs. Whole-Fat Dairy Products


Vitamins A and D (along with calcium and riboflavin) are nutritional components of most dairy products—as well as saturated fats. Physiologically, fats are converted to cholesterol and triglycerides, and both can pose an increased health risk for people with diabetes. Similar in their effects on the arteries, raised cholesterol and triglyceride values signal the need to lower fat intake in the diet.


According to a study by Steinmetz et al in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there are 8 grams of fat (of which 5 grams are saturated fats) in one cup of whole milk; one cup of skim milk contains only 0.4 grams of fat. Meanwhile, one cup of milk contains 12 grams of carbohydrates (and 8 grams of protein), per the American Diabetes Association website. Blood glucose is derived mainly from carbohydrates, so carbohydrate intake has to be carefully managed in diabetic individuals.


Fats are associated with flavorful deserts (e.g., ice cream, puddings, and custards) prepared by cooks, and low-fat desserts are often less palatable to the taste buds. In particular, French cooking uses large amounts of butter, cheese, and whipped cream. For people with diabetes, switching to low-fat dairy products can seem like a further restriction on an already limited diet.  Children with juvenile diabetes may not grasp why they are unable to eat the desserts of their peers—and resent not being allowed to eat any whipped cream on their low-sugar ice cream!


Meat versus Dairy Products for Protein


While meat provides protein in the typical diet in the United States, beef and pork are high in saturated fat—which has been linked to hardening of the arteries. Eggs and low-fat cheese are an excellent alternative to daily meat consumption. Instead of beef, pork, or chicken, a hard-boiled egg (sliced) can be substituted in stews, soups, and entrees. Meanwhile, low-fat cheese on vegetables or cubed potatoes can quickly be heated in the microwave to boost their protein level.  Lowering cholesterol and triglyceride intake in this manner can be beneficial to maintaining a decreased level of these lipids in diabetic individuals.


The Risk of Heart Problems and Diabetes


The risk of dying from diabetes is four times higher for people who consume high levels of meat and dairy products (and are under 65 years old), according to The Guardian. Juvenile diabetes is associated with a reduced lifespan calculated at 5-8 years, and a 10-fold increased risk of heart attack in adulthood (according to a New York Times online article). Atherosclerosis is a common complication of adult-onset diabetes—that is known to cause heart attacks and strokes in later life.


Uncontrolled blood sugar as a symptom of diabetes has serious implications for heart health.  People who have a family history of diabetes should carefully manage their diets, and switch to low-fat dairy products as well as decrease sugar consumption.