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.