Are you getting enough vitamin D from your diet? The chances are you’re not – most people fall well short of the recommended intake. Yet ensuring that you get enough vitamin D is important for a host of health reasons.
The good news is there’s a simple and tasty way to solve the problem. Vitamin D-fortified yogurt not only increases vitamin D levels, but it’s also associated with improved weight loss and blood glucose control, say the authors of this review.
Many foods don’t contain much vitamin D. That’s why some countries (e.g. USA, Canada, India and Finland) have introduced routine fortification of foods with vitamin D as a public health policy. Yogurt is a great choice for fortification as it’s a popular snack that is rich in calcium, protein and gut-friendly bacteria. Several studies have shown that vitamin D-fortified yogurt improves vitamin D levels and may offer several other health benefits too.
Why is vitamin D important, and where does yogurt come in?
Vitamin D is important for maintaining strong bones and a healthy immune system. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. To support best health, adults need 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day, and the elderly need even more.
Like milk, yogurt is low in vitamin D, providing 80–120 IU per pot.* But yogurt is a nutritious food that is easy to eat and well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant. Fortifying yogurt with vitamin D means that lots of people can benefit by eating this readily available food.
‘‘Fortified foods, including milk, yogurt, butter, margarine, cheeses, orange juice, bread, and breakfast cereals, represent the major dietary sources of vitamin D.’ – Gasparri et al, 2019.
What does the research show?
The authors searched the medical literature and found 9 studies that looked at the health benefits of eating 1 or 2 pots of vitamin D-fortified yogurt every day compared with unfortified yogurt.
Overall, the studies showed that blood levels of vitamin D increased in people eating vitamin D-fortified yogurt. Compared with the ‘unfortified yogurt’ group, people who ate vitamin D-fortified yogurt lost more weight and had healthier levels of fats in their blood. They also appeared to have better blood glucose control, suggesting that fortified yogurt might be associated with reducing the risk of diabetes.
Can we explain the apparent health benefits of vitamin D-fortified yogurt?
Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Low blood levels of vitamin D have also been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. If vitamin D-fortified yogurt is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, it is likely to be related to its effects on body weight. Calcium present in yogurt may help to reduce the amount of fat that is deposited in the body and, together with vitamin D, may stimulate the breakdown of body fat.
It is also possible that the composition of the gut microbiota, which is implicated in obesity, is sensitive to vitamin D levels.
Increased calcium intake has been linked to lower blood levels of harmful fats. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in the intestine and that may explain why healthier levels of fats were found in the blood of people who ate vitamin D-fortified yogurt.
The evidence so far indicates that vitamin D-fortified yogurt may be a good way to improve weight management and health in adults of all ages, say the authors.
‘The findings reported here provide evidence that enhancing the vitamin D content of yogurt may benefit those at risk of developing chronic diseases…’ – Gasparri et al, 2019.