- MOST RECENT
The Benefits and Risks of Cheese for People with Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood sugar levels are elevated and are not properly regulated. When carbohydrate-containing food is consumed, the carbohydrate is broken down into glucose. Glucose is taken up by blood and transported to other tissues. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
Pancreas secretes insulin and if it does not produce sufficient insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin secreted efficiently, the blood sugar levels become high. This condition is called hyperglycaemia which is a result of uncontrolled diabetes (1).
Physical activity, appropriate diet, regular screening and treatment are the measures to be taken seriously to avoid any complications that occur because of diabetes. Diet plays an important role in the management of glucose levels in the blood.
It is just not the main meals of the day but even the snacks contribute to high blood glucose levels. Most of the snacks we consume are energy dense and are made with refined ingredients.
What are the benefits and risks of including cheese in a diabetic diet?
There is sufficient evidence to say that dairy products can be beneficial in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) especially low fat dairy products (2, 3). The components of dairy products which may have a positive effect on reducing the risk of T2D are calcium, vitamin D, dairy fat, and trans-palmitoleic acid.
The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a numerical scale used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise our blood glucose (blood sugar) level. A food with a low GI will typically prompt a moderate rise in blood glucose, while a food with a high GI may cause our blood glucose level to increase above the optimal level.
Glycaemic index is a measure of a food’s ability to raise the level of blood glucose.
Glycaemic load is glycaemic index adjusted for a standard serving size.
Cheese is a low glycaemic index food as it has very little carbohydrate.
Foods with lower glycaemic responses are more desirable for people who are actively managing their blood glucose levels. The lower glycaemic response could mean less medication necessary to keep blood glucose levels in check.
Cheese provides 22 % protein, an excellent source of complete protein which has all the essential amino acids.
Cheese has about 710 mg of calcium in 100 gm (4). It’s a good source of calcium. Calcium has several important functions to do in the body. For strong bones and teeth being the most important.
For vegetarians who take dairy products cheese is a great source of calcium.
Cheese is a good source of vitamin D 0.6 µg in 100 gm of cheese. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. Vitamin D and calcium both are important for diabetics.
For those who are lactose intolerant there is 3 grams of sugar in 100 grams of cheese. Lactose in small doses can be tolerated by most lactose intolerant people (5). They should spread the dairy products throughout the day.
Processed cheese may have salt, diabetics should see that it does not have too much salt. WHO recommends less that is, 1 tsp, that is 5 grams of salt in a day. Hypertension is one of the risk factors for developing heart problems and diabetics have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Keep the salt intake low, check the salt content while picking up the cheese at a store.
Fat content of cheese is 33 %. In that 18 grams is saturated fat. Cheese contains about 99 mg of cholesterol (4) which is a significant amount. High cholesterol and saturated fat-containing foods are risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.
Cheese is a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D. But at the same time, it contains a good amount of saturated fat and cholesterol. Other foods in the diet also provide saturated fat and cholesterol.
Therefore, though dairy products are good for diabetic people cheese should be taken in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
- World Health Organisation (2019). Diabetes.
- Kalergis, M., Leung Yinko, S. S. and Nedelcu, R. (2013) Dairy products and prevention of type 2 diabetes: implications for research and practice, Frontiers in endocrinology. Vol. 4(90).
- Fumeron, F., Lamri, A., Abi Khalil, C., Jaziri, R., Porchay-Baldérelli, I., Lantieri, O., Vol, S., Balkau, B. and Marre, M. (2011) Data from the Epidemiological Study on the Insulin Resistance Syndrome (DESIR) Study Group. Dairy consumption and the incidence of hyperglycemia and the metabolic syndrome: results from a French prospective study, Data from the Epidemiological Study on the Insulin Resistance Syndrome (DESIR), Diabetes Care. Vol. 34(4).
- United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Food Composition Databases.
- Bhatnagar, S. and Aggarwal, R. (2007) Lactose intolerance, BMJ (Clinical research ed.). Vol. 334(7608).