Yogurt may be one of your best weapons when it comes to fighting the risk of diabetes. Research has hinted at the possibility that low-fat dairy products can help prevent type 2 diabetes, and a new study sheds more light on the story.

The prevalence of diabetes in the US increased by 128 percent between 1988 and 2008. If this trend continues, by 2050 one in three Americans will have diabetes.

Only fermented dairy products were associated with a lower risk of new-onset diabetes.

People who consumed the most low-fat fermented dairy foods reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 24 percent, according to British researchers. Fermented dairy products include all varieties of yogurt and some low-fat cheeses, like cottage cheese as well as kefir, lassi, acidopholus, and buttermilk.

Fermented dairy foods are those that have been modified by lactic acid-producing microorganisms that are added to milk. The process acidifies the milk and produces many different fermented milk products.

Those who ate roughly 2 ½ cups of low-fat yogurt a week had the greatest risk reduction (28 percent) compared to people who didn’t consume yogurt at all.

When yogurt was eaten as a snack instead of other foods like chips, it further reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study examined the diets of over 25,000 people. How much dairy food a person ate — high-fat dairy or low-fat dairy — was not itself linked to the risk of developing diabetes. Nor was total intake of milk and cheese. Only fermented dairy products were associated with a lower risk of new-onset diabetes.

It is not yet clear exactly what it is about yogurt and other fermented dairy products that helps. Previous research has suggested that certain nutrients in yogurt or other fermented dairy foods — such as vitamin D (in fortified foods), calcium, magnesium, and some potentially helpful fatty acids — may be the driving force, but further research is needed. The probiotic bacteria in fermented dairy foods may play a role, as well as a form of vitamin K connected with fermentation.

Unlike other studies that rely on people’s memory of what they ate in the past, these resarchers collected information on dietary intake in real time.

Nearly 26 million children and adults in the US have diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. Most people who have type 2 diabetes (85 percent) are overweight or obese.

The study highlights the likelihood that some foods could play an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, according to Nita Forouhi of the University of Cambridge and the lead scientist in this study. Such foods could be promoted in public health campaigns to reduce skyrocketing rates of the disease.

“…At a time when we have a lot of other evidence that consuming high amounts of certain foods, such as added sugars and sugary drinks, is bad for our health, it is very reassuring to have messages about other foods like yogurt and low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for our health,” Forouhi said.

The study was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.