FDA Approves “Qualified Health Claim” That Yogurt Can Lower Risk Of Diabetes

In Education

The FDA has granted yogurt companies permission to use a “qualified health claim” asserting that their products may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. This marks the first time such a claim has been approved for yogurt manufacturers.

Yogurt could lower diabetes risk

North American company Danone submitted a petition in December 2018 referencing 117 studies to support a qualified health claim for yogurt. However, this is unsurprising given Danone’s status as a major player in the food and beverage industry, with ownership of well-known yogurt brands.

Qualified health claims are supported by some scientific evidence but fall short of the more rigorous “significant scientific agreement” (SSA) standard required for authorized health claims. These claims must be accompanied by disclaimers to prevent consumer misunderstanding. Although the FDA doesn’t formally approve such claims, they are reviewed to ensure compliance with regulations.

The recent ruling allows yogurt companies to state that consuming two cups (equivalent to 3 servings) per week may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, based on limited scientific evidence. The FDA’s assessment indicates no specific restrictions on added sugar or excess fat concerning this claim. The FDA has raised concerns regarding the potential application of the assertion to yogurts containing significant levels of added sugar.

Sugar enhances flavor and texture of yogurt

Most yogurts contain sugar, particularly low or non-fat versions, to enhance flavor and texture. Plain yogurts, the least processed variety, are widely available. This applies only to dairy-based yogurts, not plant-based alternatives like almond, coconut, or soy. Despite research, the exact reason for this association remains unclear, though it’s speculated that live cultures fermenting the milk may play a role.

Yogurt, particularly unsweetened and minimally processed varieties, is a nutritious food rich in beneficial bacteria for gut health, calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, and potassium. However, many Americans consume yogurt with significant amounts of added sugar. During the low-fat trend of the early 2000s, companies capitalized on this trend by reducing fat content and compensating with added sugar to maintain flavor, a strategy that remains popular today.

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