It’s at the top of the shopping list for many health-conscious people but what exactly are the benefits of eating yogurt and where is the scientific evidence?
This was the question addressed by US researchers who carried out a thorough review of the medical literature for studies that examined the health effects of consuming yogurt and other fermented milk products.
Reduced risks of some cancers and type 2 diabetes, better weight control, and improved gut, heart and bone health were among the health benefits associated with eating yogurt or other fermented milk products, the authors discovered.
They were so impressed with their findings that they’re calling for consumption of these products to be encouraged as part of national dietary guidelines.
The fermentation of milk by bacteria leads to the release of various bioactive compounds that may have health-promoting effects. Additional probiotics – beneficial bacteria – may be added to products such as yogurt. The bacteria in fermented milk products help to maintain a healthy mix of bacteria in the gut – which scientists believe is important for good health.
Evidence suggests that consumption of yogurt or fermented milk may improve certain conditions affecting the gut, including lactose digestion and intolerance, diarrhoea, constipation, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
‘The strongest evidence supporting the health benefits of fermented foods is for their ability to improve lactose digestion and tolerance.’ – Savaiano and Hutkins, 2020.
Learn more about fermented foods and lactose digestion:
Heart, blood vessels and blood pressure
Several studies have shown an association between consuming yogurt or fermented milk and improved heart health and reduced risk of stroke. These effects may be due to healthier fat levels in the blood, particularly lower total cholesterol, and reduced blood pressure, say the authors.
Colorectal cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer
Several studies have shown an association between consuming fermented milk products and reduced risks of colorectal and breast cancer.
On the other hand, consumption of dairy foods has been associated with increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Further research is needed to find out whether the risk for prostate cancer is different for fermented milk products compared with dairy foods in general, say the authors.
Learn more about dairy and reduced risk of cancer:
- Research provides reassurance over dairy intake and breast cancer risk
- Breast cancer risk could be lower with yogurt intake
Weight control, diabetes and bone health
Consuming fermented milk products, particularly yogurt, is strongly associated with various measures of weight control, including less obesity, lower body weight, reduced body fat and reduced weight gain over time. These effects may result from a healthier gut microbiota, say the authors.
Several studies have shown that consumption of fermented milk products, particularly yogurt, is strongly associated with reduced risks of metabolic syndrome – a combination of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The high nutrient content of yogurt is likely to be the reason for the association between eating yogurt and increased bone density, greater height and weight gain in children, and reduced risk of hip fracture in older adults.
This study shows that wide breadth of scientific evidence showing that fermented milk products such as yogurt are great for our health. It’s time these important foods were recommended in food-based dietary guidelines so that many more people can benefit, say the authors.