Yogurt and worldwide habits

Yogurt consumption patterns today and in the past


Yogurt is an ancient food and has been part of our diet for thousands of years, not only as a dessert, but also valued because of its health benefits. Consumption patterns vary across the world and show a close link with the evolution of civilization.

Fermented dairy products are linked to the transition from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle. During the Neolithic era, yogurt was discovered in the Middle East as a safe method to preserve milk by heating it. In the 11th century, the curative properties of yogurt were evaluated for the first time in Turkish literature. Genghis Khan introduced yogurt in the Mongolian diet of his army, believing it instilled bravery. It was not until the 20th century, that a Bulgarian medical student, Stamen Grigorov, described the health benefits of lactic acid bacteria in yogurt.

Yogurt as a healthy lifestyle

Yogurt has many different names worldwide and is believed to originate from the Turkish word “yoğurmak”, which means to thicken. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization defined yogurt as a fermented milk product, containing two strains of lactic bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles). Dairy consumption patterns differ per country: traditional European countries, such as Finland and Denmark, show the highest calcium intake with approximately 1000mg/day. Proteins, calcium, vitamins and probiotics in yogurt contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Lactose intolerance dominates in Asian, African and American Indian populations, however, a low yogurt consumption means a higher risk for calcium deficiency and osteoporosis. Increasing yogurt consumption in developing countries, such as Brazil, is associated with economic change. A Brazilian study of Dr. Possa found that most yogurt consumers are younger women, nondiabetic, nonhypertensive, nonsmokers, more educated and from higher socioeconomic level.

Source: Fisberg, M. et al., Nutrition Reviews, August 2015, Vol 73(8), pp. 4-7.

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