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Yogurt with live cultures may contribute to gut health

Yogurt may contribute to gut health - YINI

Habitual yogurt consumption modifies the composition and function of the gut microbiota in a way that may lead to health benefits.

Diet can influence the diversity of the gut microbiota, which is important for health.

The gut microbiota plays an important role in digestion. It may also be essential for the normal development and functioning of the immune and nervous systems.

Maintaining the healthy diversity of the gut microbiota is important in preventing disease.

Researchers have proposed that there is a gut microbiota “signature” that could promote intestinal inflammation and subsequent systemic low-grade inflammation, a condition that predisposes to Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity.

“As a fermented food containing millions of live bacteria, yogurt may have a beneficial effect on gut health, increasing gut microbiota richness and robustness, protecting the intestinal barrier, and preventing a range of gastrointestinal disorders.” – Dr Joël Doré

The composition of the gut microbiota is influenced by our diet, among other factors. Moreover, in fermented foods such as yogurt, the products of fermentation and particularly the bacteria involved in the fermentation process, can provide additional properties to the food beyond basic nutrition.

Hence, fermented foods such as yogurt are arousing research interest as potentially having benefits beyond an extended shelf life and improved texture and flavour.

Yogurt can deliver millions of live bacteria to the gut and may beneficially alter the gut microbiota

Yogurt with live cultures contains millions of bacteria and eating yogurt daily could potentially increase the number of bacteria in the diet by up to 10,000-fold.

Yogurt and live bacteria - YINI

While probiotic bacteria are unlikely to have longlasting effects on the gut microbiota, consuming yogurt with live cultures on a regular basis will at least temporarily bolster the live bacteria in the gut, most commonly the yogurt starters Streptococcus thermophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis.

In addition, prebiotics may be added to yogurt (often in the form of fruit) and these may stimulate the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Daily yogurt consumption appears to boost the numbers of Lactobacilli in the gut and is associated with a slight increase in microbial diversity over a 42-day period.

As well as beneficially altering the composition of the gut microbiota, probiotic bacteria – live microorganisms intended to have health benefits when consumed – in yogurt may alter the function of the existing resident bacteria by affecting the production of SCFAs;  these have beneficial effects on energy metabolism.

Yogurt may help to protect the intestinal barrier

Animal studies have suggested that a peptide derived from the milk protein found in yogurt, β-casein, increases the production of mucin, an essential component of the mucus layer that lines and protects the intestine.

“Modulation of the gut microbiota through yogurt consumption may prove to help in treating and preventing irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhoea, and allergy gastroenteritis. Studies are needed to explore these potential benefits.”- Professor Olivier Goulet

Yogurt may protect against gastrointestinal disease

Research suggests that yogurt might play a role in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

For children with mild to moderate persistent diarrhoea, a yogurt-based diet may be recommended as it has been shown to reduce stool
output and the duration of diarrhoea.

Modulation of the gut microbiota by yogurt, particularly yogurt containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, might be of value in the prevention or treatment of gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhoea and allergy gastroenteritis.

Yogurt is frequently used in many countries for the nutritional management of acute gastroenteritis, although data on this approach are limited and large randomised controlled trials are needed to provide evidence to support it.

“Yogurt is an important part of nutrition and dietary guidelines as it offers both a great nutrient density and also live bacteria to contribute to gut health.”- Professor Seppo Salminen


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