Key Publications FENS 2015 Berlin

Yogurt and weight management: systematic review of the evidence

Epidemiological studies suggest dairy products may be useful as part of weight management and prevention of obesity programs. However, to date, there were no comprehensive reviews focused specifically on yogurt. The results of a new systematic review investigated the effect of yogurt consumption on weight-related outcomes were discussed by Dr Richard Atkinson in the workshop entitled “Yogurt consumption benefits: global findings & perspectives” led by the Yogurt in Nutrition Initiative for a Balanced Diet (YINI) held on October 22 during the 12th FENS European Nutrition Conference, Berlin.

Yogurt consumption is highly likely to be linked to healthy eating and lifestyle attributes, which are, in turn, partly to be linked to positive weight-related outcomes. Dr. Richard Atkinson (Physician at the Department of Pathology, Virginia Commonwealth University, US) discussed findings of a recent systematic review investigating in particular the association between yogurt consumption and weight gain. This review was performed by the York Health Economics Consortium and collaborators and analysed more than 69 potential scientific papers. 22 studies were selected according to eligible criteria and included 7 cross-sectional, 6 cohort, 2 crossover, and 7 controlled studies.

Yogurt is part of the diet of many people worldwide and is commonly recognized as a “health food”.

All epidemiological studies unveiled that there is evidence to suggest that yogurt consumption is associated with less weight gain over time. These studies were carried out in the USA, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, Australia, Canada and France with a duration ranged from  5.9 years to 12.9 years. Cross-sectional studies and population-based cohort studies had the largest study numbers, between 72 participants and 14,500 participants, with an outlying large study of more than 120,000 participants.

Yogurt consumption may have a modest but beneficial effect for prevention of weight gain and management of obesity.

Cross-sectional and cohort studies (1-5) almost all show a positive association of yogurt and weight management, but only correlation, not  a cause/effect relationship. Among these studies, several components of body weight are correlated with yogurt consumption : yogurt consumers may have a lower BMI, lower body weight/weight gain, smaller waist circumference and lower body fat compared to non-consumers. More specifically, individuals who ate yogurt regularly – at least 7 servings per week – had at least a 20% lower risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Yogurt consumption is associated with lower BMI, lower body weight gain, smaller waist circumference and lower body fat.

To date, existing controlled trials are not adequately designed, except for one from Zemel (6) published in IJO, which suggests a significant favourable weight-related outcomes for yogurt compared to the control group. This study is very promising, by showing a robust benefit of yogurt on body fat/weight in obese people, but confounded by different calcium intake in groups.

Yogurt cannot cure obesity, but may assist in losing weight or preventing weight gain as part of daily life.

This systematic review therefore suggests today a clear role for yogurt in weight management. The degree of benefit is probably a modest weight loss or a modest prevention of weight gain. However, on a population health basis, such a difference could produce large economic gains and yogurt holds great promise to be a simple measure on a daily basis to prevent weight gain over time. This relatively achievable and low-cost dietary change could thereby help in minimising the impact of obesity and improve public health.

Yogurt as a part of a weight maintenance or weight loss program may have a benefit.

According to Dr Richardson, well-designed, RCTs with adequate numbers for sufficient power are therefore needed to get a better understanding of the possible mechanisms of action of yogurt and the plausible cause–effect relationships.

Watch now the slideshow from Dr. Richard Atkinson

Check out all sources and read more on the systematic review published in International Journal of Obesity here
  1. Keast DR, et al. Associations between yogurt, dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intake and obesity among U.S. children aged 8-18 years: NHANES, 2005-2008. Nutrients 2015; 7(3):1577-93.
  2. Wang H, et al. Yogurt consumption is associated with better diet quality and metabolic profile in American men and women. Nutr Res 2013; 33(1):18-26.
  3. Cormier H, et al. Association between yogurt consumption, dietary patterns, and cardio-metabolic risk factors. Eur J Nutr 2015 Mar 15.
  4. Mozaffarian D, et al. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med 2011; 364(25):2392-404.
  5. Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al. Yogurt consumption, weight change and risk of overweight/obesity: the SUN cohort study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2014; 24(11):1189-96.
  6. Zemel MB, et al.Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 391–397. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802880 Published online 11 January 2005

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