FDA Allows Yogurt Producers to Claim Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk

The FDA allows yogurt producers to claim their products may reduce Type 2 diabetes risk, despite limited evidence. The claim requires a disclaimer and applies to dairy-based yogurts with live and active cultures and minimal added sugars.

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FDA Allows Yogurt Producers to Claim Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk

FDA Allows Yogurt Producers to Claim Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted permission to yogurt producers to claim that their products may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, despite acknowledging that the evidence supporting this claim is limited. The decision, made in March 2024, comes in response to a 2018 request from Danone North America, the U.S. subsidiary of the French firm Danone, for a "qualified health claim."

Why this matters: This decision has significant implications for public health, as it may influence consumer behavior and dietary choices. Furthermore, it raises questions about the FDA's standards for approving health claims and the potential impact on the prevention and management of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

Under the FDA's ruling, yogurt makers can now state that eating yogurt regularly, at least two cups or three servings per week, maypreventthe risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, the claim must be accompanied by a disclaimer noting that the evidence is limited. The FDA cites some evidence suggesting that consuming at least two cups of yogurt a week could lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which currently affects approximately 36 million Americans.

Critics argue that the claim is not supported by randomized control trials, which are considered the gold standard for proving or disproving health benefits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, cautions that no single food can reduce the risk of developing a disease linked to overall diet. Experts have expressed concerns that the label change could encourage people to eat yogurt high in sugar, potentially increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

Danone North America's director of health and scientific affairs, Amanda Blechman, stated that the company noticed a growing body of evidence supporting the claim and applied to the FDA in 2018. The research showed that the benefit applies regardless of the yogurt's sugar or fat content, but the FDA expressed concern about yogurts with high added sugar content. Danone's application to the FDA cited 32 studies to support the claim, with six of those studies receiving partial funding from Danone or a related company.

The FDA's decision allows any yogurt maker to use the claim on dairy-based yogurt, including Danone's competitors General Mills (Yoplait) and privately held Chobani. However, it is essential to choose yogurts with live and active cultures and minimal added sugars for maximum health benefits. While yogurt is rich in nutrients and may offer various health benefits, this information should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The FDA's decision to allow yogurt producers to claim reduced Type 2 diabetes risk has sparked controversy among experts who argue that the evidence supporting this claim is limited. As Blechman noted, "We noticed the body of evidence was really growing and becoming more compelling" to support the claim. However, the debate surrounding the role of individual foods in preventing disease and the importance of overall diet in maintaining health continues.