Diabetes and Dairy: Soy Yogurt – As Good as Insulin?

A lot of you probably keep up with the latest health news, especially as it relates to diabetes. Late last year, one of the newsworthy items had to do with soy yogurt and diabetes. Not exactly a topic of great excitement, you might be thinking, but this story has generated sparks of interest, especially in the blogging community.


In a study published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Food Biochemistry, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, examined different kinds of yogurt—plain and fruited, including soy yogurt—for compounds that might help control diabetes.

There are certain diabetes medicines, called alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, that target enzymes in the digestive tract. These enzymes, alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase, are involved in carbohydrate digestion. Blocking the action of these enzymes helps slow the digestion of carbohydrate, thus slowing the typical rise in blood glucose after eating a meal. The researchers in the yogurt study tested the different types of yogurt to see if they had any effect on these enzymes.

The researchers were also interested in how the various types of yogurt affected another enzyme, called angiotensin-I converting enzyme (ACE-I), which might sound familiar to you if you happen to take an ACE inhibitor for your blood pressure or kidney health. ACE-I can cause blood vessels to narrow, thereby raising blood pressure.

Plant compounds can block all three of these enzymes, opening the door for the use of more natural therapies. Of course, drugs are effective, but as we all know, drug therapy can sometimes have unpleasant and even harmful side effects.

Samples of peach, blueberry, strawberry, and plain yogurts (all different brands, including a soy brand) were tested for their ability to block these three enzymes. Interestingly, the blueberry soy yogurt packed the most punch by blocking all three enzymes. The peach and strawberry yogurts did a pretty good job, too, and even the plain soy yogurt fared well.

It’s known that fruit and soy products contain natural compounds called phenols. Phenols are known to boost heart health and are found in tea, red wine, and dark chocolate, among other foods. In this experiment, the yogurts with the highest phenol content—the plain soy yogurt and the blueberry dairy yogurts—were the best at blocking the enzyme alpha-glucosidase. The soy yogurts were also the best at inhibiting ACE-I.

While this experiment didn’t involve human subjects, it did add to the arsenal of evidence that diets rich in fruits and vegetables (and soy) may help protect against certain diseases.

But don’t stop taking your diabetes or blood pressure medicines just yet. What isn’t known is how much blueberry yogurt, for example, a person would have to eat to see an improvement in blood glucose or blood pressure readings. And while you might already be eating yogurt for a snack or as part of a meal, you still need to consider the carbohydrate content. On average, a six-ounce serving of a fruited soy yogurt contains about 30 grams of carbohydrate (the amount found in two slices of bread or in a medium-sized banana), along with 160 calories and 2 grams of fat. The nutrition content of many fruited dairy yogurts is similar.

So, despite its potential benefits, yogurt isn’t a “free” food. Go ahead and enjoy yogurt and soy yogurt, but remember to count those carbohydrates. More on dairy and diabetes next week.

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  • Linda

    I eat a carton of Dannon Light and Fit every day. It has a low carb count. It’s easy to bring to work as a mid morning snack. Glad to hear it could actually be good for my diabetes.

  • Diane

    I also eat Dannon Light & Fit yogurt. It’s a 6 oz. container and has 60 calories and most flavors either 10 or 11 carbs. I’m also glad to hear it could be good for my diabetes.

  • nancy

    I’ve had Diabetes for 8 years. I am on insulin as well as two different oral medications. Sometimes even all these drugs did not keep my blood sugars within normail range.

    Three weeks ago I decided to start driking 1-2 glasses of sugarless vanilla soy milk. It only had 1 net carb per glass and sounded good to drink. Within days my sugar was in the 60’s, (my sugar had reached almost 500 on different occasions before the soy). I had to lower my insulin twice so far and it is still in the 60’s and 70’s.

    Unfortunately, I recently got into quite a bit of candy, but also kept drinking the soy milk. I thought my sugar would be off the scale, but it has remained in the 60’s and 70’s. I think there may be a direct correllation between any kind of soy milk product and blood glucose levels. My sugar has never been this constantly low since I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I’m just wondering if anyone else has experienced this? Have I stumbled on to a miracle?

  • Mary Mead

    I am a diabetic on insulin.
    I refuse to take the pills, because they cause major kidney and liver damage. I told the DR to put me on insulin. You can control your diabetis better. I have been looking for a yogurt that is low in carbs and sugar also.

  • acampbell

    Hi Mary,

    There really isn’t a low-carb yogurt. Yogurt naturally contains carbohydrate because it’s made from milk. Plain yogurt contains about 12 grams of carbohydrate per 1-cup serving; even the “light” yogurts, sweetened with artificial sweeteners, have about 16 grams of carbohydrate per 6-ounce serving. But these may be better choices than many of the fruited yogurts, which contain closer to 30 grams of carbohydrate per serving.

  • Celinda

    It is soy yogurt that works. Dairy causes diabetes, I read the orginal article. It compared dairy and soy. Plain soy yogurt beat blueberry dairy yogurt. Dairy yogurt without blueberries did nothing to help. But the top was SOY BLUEBERRY yogurt, which did amazing things for the body.

    Years ago they connected dairy yogurt with ovarian cancer. Dairy is animal protein and animal protein leeches calcium from your bones. The human body does not like acidic foods such as meat and dairy therefore to nutralize the acidic affect your body takes calcium from your bones.

  • francis

    i am a diabetic but i dont understand what is type 1 or type 2 diabetic,i eat yoghurt practically everyday for lunch i dont know if this effects diabetic control,should i take yoghurt and i want to know if this has any effect with persons in high blood pressure,please kindly inform me as i am very much concerned about my health, i am 43 years old and i recently diagnosed with high sugar

  • acampbell

    Hi francis,

    Having diabetes can be confusing, especially if you’re not sure what type of diabetes you have. A big part of managing your diabetes is finding out as much as you can — this includes talking with your physician, meeting with a diabetes educator and dietitian, and doing some reading on your own, too. Please talk with your physician and ask him/her questions about what type of diabetes you have and how to best manage it. Hopefully you’re checking your blood glucose with a meter, but if not, ask your doctor for a referral to a diabetes educator to learn how. Also, meet with a dietitian who specializes in diabetes so that you can get a meal plan that will work with your goals and lifestyle. Again, your doctor should be able to give you a referral, and you probably have dietitians and diabetes educators at your local hospital or diabetes center with whom you can meet. In the meantime, yes, you can eat yogurt for lunch. But the best way to find out how foods affect your blood glucose is to check with a meter; otherwise, you won’t really know. Here’s a link to a diabetes article on this Web site that you might want to read, too, to learn more about diabetes:

  • acampbell

    Hi Celinda,

    While there is some evidence pointing to cow’s milk increasing the risk of Type 1 diabetes in children, nothing is conclusive at this point. There are many other factors that also have to be considered in terms of what causes diabetes, such as genetics, the environment, viruses, etc. On the flip side, a study done out of Tufts University showed that people who consumed the most servings of dairy foods (including milk) each day actually had a 15% lower chance of getting Type 2 diabetes than the people who consumed very little dairy. The researchers believe that the calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium in dairy may somehow be protective. Finally, there are no conclusive studies showing that consuming dairy foods increase the risk for ovarian cancer.

  • Jim

    Hi Nancy i read your posted coments and i also am drinking soy milk and my sugar has went way down,send me a message at my email if u are still there and want to talk about this subject.
    thanks Jim

  • Mary

    I am a diabetic. I have found a frendly diabetic yogurt Dannon Light and fit 3 carbs 2 sugars, This seeme to work for me as a small snack, I also started drinking Soy Low fat, milk. But you also have to check the sugar content of this milk so have more than others, I also started eating soy products,. Bean, etc.

  • Carmen

    I mix in a blender 1 6oz container of Dannon Light vanilla with 2 very generous handfuls of Spinach in the morning, at times if I want it smoother I will add a dash of Almond Breeze (no sugar added 40 calories) or no sugar added Silk. I do try to walk 15-20 minutes after my smoothy in the morning.

    I had stopped taking my diabetes meds and my doctor made it official last week. Off of diabetes meds (Januvia and Metformin) and my cholesterol med (Simvastatin).

    My A1C is 5.5 and has remained low for over 7 months now.

    I highly recommend the 30 day diabetes miracle book. I doubted much of it but I would try anything that would eliminate the diabetes and cholesterol meds. It worked and a plus is that I’ve lost close to 70 pounds.


  • Kate

    So I should be drinking soy milk,,,I take high blood presure, diabetics meds, and cholestrol meds….I’ll try anything…thanks, kk

  • Laura

    when i was a child the only milk i drank was cholate and that was only for 2 years between the ages of 5 and 6 i really do not like any milk at all, so i never drank it up until a few years ago i started drinking it again after finding out i was diabetic type 2, doctor told me drinking a least one 8 oz glass per day would help to control the sugar levels, so i still after 5 years drinking that 1 8 oz glass per day, i am on metformin, but no other meds, i did get off track with my grandma being ill and having to care for her, but, hoping to get everything back to normal very quickly, I have tasted soy milk as well and actually perfer it to regular milk i am wondering should i switch to soy

  • acampbell

    Hi Laura,

    Not everyone likes cow’s milk or is able to tolerate it. Soy milk is certainly an option. It is a good source of protein and is low in saturated fat. Choose a soy milk that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, since soy milk doesn’t naturally contain these nutrients. Also, choose unsweetened or plain soy milk. Some soy milks are flavored with chocolate or vanilla, which means extra calories and carbohydrate.

  • rosie

    hello guys,im happy to hear that soymilk is good for people with diabetes thank you all godbless.

  • kathy

    My cat may have prediabetes. I would like to avoid the insulin shots and am wondering what types of animals were involved in the study and if soy yogurt would be a safe alternative for a prediabetic cat to help keep his blood sugar stabilized or normal? Any imput would be helpful.

  • acampbell

    Hi kathy,

    Actually, the yogurt study didn’t involve animals, just yogurt! I’m not that “up” on cat nutrition to adequately answer you. I don’t know if soy yogurt is appropriate to give to a cat. However, making sure that your cat is at a healthy weight is probably one of the most important things that you can do. I’d suggest that you talk to your vet about other steps you could take, such as possibly changing his cat food, for example, and getting more exercise in (just like with humans!). Also, I came across this Web site that may be helpful, too: http://cats.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=cats&cdn=homegarden&tm=53&gps=528_262_1020_527&f=00&su=p504.1.336.ip_&tt=11&bt=1&bts=0&st=31&zu=http%3A//yourdiabeticcat.com/index.html.

    Best of luck to you and your cat!

  • jason biggs

    I can’t believe that you actually answered the cat question

  • acampbell

    Hi Jason,

    Well, why not? I happen to have a cat, and cats (and dogs) get diabetes, just as people do. People want their pets to stay healthy!

  • NotAlternative4AlternativesSake

    Soy products are fashionable but very DANGEROUS. In Asia they now about this fact because they have used soy for hundreds of years. The soi needs to be fermented.

  • Bet J

    It’s been interesting reading comments regarding which yogurt is the healthiest, especially for diabetics as everyone seems to be looking for low fat for dieting, but all you yogurt producers out there, please consider us diabetic! There is one yogurt that I have found though that as far as I know is only sold in Sainsbury’s called Irish Diet Yogurts which apparently has no added sugar or fat. It’s the best one that I have come across whatever. Regarding the soy milk, that is the same as SOYA milk I take it, I shall certainly try that as it seems to be quite helpful too so many of you. Any other diabetic news, I shall be glad to receive. Thanks

  • Mickey

    Hi, This question is for Nancy and Jim. Are you guys still drinking soy milk? What’s the progress?

  • Patty

    This info is very helpful. I, like some others, do not want to take the medications. Since I have been on the Metoformin my hair has started falling out – alot! So I’m going off it, and try to eat right. I have a questions – are apples good for people that have high blood sugar? I find that if I just quit eating so many sweets and breads, potatoes, etc. that I feel so much better. Thanks for all the info!

  • acampbell

    Hi Patty,

    Hair loss isn’t a typical side effect of metformin. I’d suggest that you talk with your doctor about this and he can rule out other causes. Also, while it’s understandable that some people dislike taking medication, it’s never a wise idea to stop taking medication without consulting with your physician. Eating right (and exercising) are key parts of diabetes management, but sometimes they aren’t enough and medication is needed (much of this will depend on your A1C level). And yes, apples can certainly fit into a diabetes eating plan. A small apple (about the size of a tennis ball) contains 15 grams of carbohydrate, which is the amount you’d get in a slice of bread, 1/3 cup of rice, or 8 ounces of milk.

  • Bill

    Hi All,

    I came across this forum a few minutes ago and I so very much enjoy reading people’s input. I was very recently diagnosted with Type 2 and it has been a difficult thing for me to accept. I had a number of bizarre symptoms, including a bald spot on my head. I was very thirsty and went to the bathroom a lot. My glucose came back very high and further testing (A1C) revealed that I have diabetes. The doctor encouraged me that I was very fortunate as I did not have this for more than two years as I’ve been getting my check ups. The last time I had a check up, my glucose was edging slightly above normal. Anyway, I love milk, but I can’t tolerate it. You guys have mentioned soy milk and I bought unsweeten soy milk and it appears to be a wise decision. I love the flavor, but let me qualify that: I am Asian and soy was part of my diet for a number of years. For the ladies who have found great results with soy milk, please continue to keep us (me) posted.

  • herbert tyrell

    i am using lactosoy soy milk but there does not seem to be a sugar free product only a less sugar brand .also they do not seem to produce a yoghurt sugar free, would you please advise the sugar free yoghurt also the sugar free soy milk , and if it can be purchased in the general food stores ie Big C. tesco Lotus , Rimmping , Tops , I have type two diabetes

  • acampbell

    Hi herbert,

    The issue with all types of milk and yogurt is that they all contain carbohydrate. Sweetened milk, like chocolate milk or vanilla soy milk, may contain more carbohydrate from added sugar. The same is true for yogurt: it will always have some carbohydrate, but yogurts that are flavored with fruit have even more carbohydrate. When choosing a soy milk, go for the unsweetened, unflavored version. For yogurt, choose either plain or “light-style” yogurt that is sweetened with a sweetener such as aspartame, sucralose, or stevia. You should be able to find these in most supermarkets, but if not, try a store like Whole Foods or a similar health-food store in your area.