Yogurt Can Lower Diabetes Risk, FDA Allows Makers to Claim, with Caveats

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said companies could make the claim that their yogurts may help reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to limited evidence, in a decision Friday.

Yogurt makers may now claim that their products can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to new guidance from the Food and Drug Administration – with some caveats.

The facts

– The FDA decision allows yogurt companies to make a “qualified health claim” that regular yogurt consumption – at least two cups or three servings per week – may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

– The claim must specify that there is limited scientific evidence supporting it. The FDA said there was some evidence linking yogurt intake and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes “irrespective of fat or sugar content.” But this finding was based on observational studies that measure associations instead of a cause-and-effect relationship between a substance and disease, it added.

– In its guidance, the FDA noted opposing views including that the move could “encourage consumers to increase consumption of yogurts, including those that are high in added sugars.” Added sugars have been linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes. Acknowledging that concern, the FDA urged “careful consideration” of whether to use the claim “on products that could contribute significant amounts of added sugars to the diet.”


The move follows a 2018 petition from representatives of Danone North America, which sells yogurt, beverages and baby formula among other food products. The petition cited 117 publications as evidence for the claim that yogurt consumption lessens the risk of Type 2 diabetes, the FDA said. At least six of the studies were at least partially funded by Danone or a related company, Reuters reported.

Danone North America welcomed the FDA announcement, saying in a statement that it hopes the move provides consumers with “simple, actionable information they can use to help lower their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

In previous “qualified health claims,” the FDA has allowed cranberry juice makers to say there is a link between consuming certain cranberry products and a reduced risk of recurrent urinary tract infection in healthy women; that consuming magnesium could lower risk of high blood pressure; and that eating macadamia nuts may lessen the risk of coronary heart disease.

Critics though have said that the claims – which are based on lesser evidence than “authorized health claims,” serve as “wishy-washy health advice.”

Important context

About 38 million Americans have diabetes, and more than 90 percent of them have Type 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death for more than 103,000 people in 2021, making it the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.