Obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer are all associated with chronic inflammation. Research shows that impaired intestinal barrier function, particularly in people who are obese, can worsen inflammation. The authors report that consuming 339g of low-fat yogurt daily for 9 weeks may improve intestinal barrier function and thus modestly reduce chronic inflammation in healthy premenopausal women.
Studies have shown that eating yogurt is associated with improved intestinal barrier function, reduced biomarkers of inflammation in elderly people and children, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, little is known about the effects of yogurt in premenopausal women. This randomised controlled study examined the effects of consuming low-fat yogurt on chronic inflammation and intestinal barrier function in healthy premenopausal women.
Obese and non-obese premenopausal women were randomised to receive either two standard servings of low-fat yogurt or a non-dairy control food (soya pudding) every day for 9 weeks. Blood samples were taken at intervals to measure the levels of various pro-inflammatory chemicals, and biological markers for endotoxin exposure and intestinal barrier function. Endotoxin is a toxic chemical found in the outer membrane of some bacteria in the gut. If the intestinal barrier is damaged, this toxin can cross the gut wall and circulate around the body where it can cause inflammation.
Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation and impaired intestinal barrier function
At the start of the study, obese women had higher blood levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals than non-obese women, indicating chronic inflammation. Obese women also had higher blood levels of biological markers for endotoxin exposure, indicating damage to the intestinal barrier.
Low-fat yogurt consumption modestly reduces chronic inflammation in premenopausal women
Compared with the control group having soya pudding, eating two servings of low-fat yogurt every day for 9 weeks reduced the levels of some pro-inflammatory chemicals in the blood of obese and non-obese women. By reducing chronic inflammation, low-fat yogurt could help protect against serious diseases.
Low-fat yogurt consumption improves intestinal barrier function in premenopausal women
Reduced blood levels of some biomarkers of endotoxin exposure were found in obese and non-obese women who ate yogurt. Blood levels of a chemical that improves intestinal barrier function (2-arachidonoylglycerol) were higher in obese women eating low-fat yogurt than in those eating the non-dairy control food. Improved intestinal barrier function therefore appears to be partially responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of eating yogurt, the authors concluded.
Is there a role for probiotics in controlling inflammation?
The yogurt used in this study was a typical commercial product without added probiotics. The findings show that probiotics may not be necessary for yogurt to prevent chronic inflammation in healthy premenopausal women, say the authors. However, they point out that this study was not designed to test the effects of fermentation and previous studies have shown that probiotics have anti-inflammatory and intestinal barrier-promoting effects.
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