Nutrition: What nobody tells about the health benefits of yogurt

Yogurt is an ancient food, which has been consumed and valued throughout history for its health benefits. And since the 20th century it has been investigated as a product of the fermentation process, which differentiates it from other dairy products, and, due to its intrinsic characteristics, as an ally in the prevention of different diseases, as well as a promoter of good quality food in general.

“Yogurt is an ancestral fermented food, which provides a high quantity of live, safe and beneficial bacteria, in addition to presenting low energy density, high nutrient density, mainly proteins and calcium, also improving digestion and absorption of nutrients. All these beneficial effects have been demonstrated through scientific studies. On the other hand, there are yogurts to which probiotics are added, adding benefits to those that already exist derived from the transformation of milk into a matrix with numerous bioactive components.”, says María Elena Torresani (MN: 936), a graduate in Nutrition, a doctorate in the area of ​​Nutrition (UBA) and director of the Clinical Nutrition Specialists Career at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires.

All these already known benefits, added to the new available evidence, mean that the consumption of yogurt on a frequent basis is related to a healthy lifestyle. “Different researchers observed that regular yogurt consumers have better eating habits than non-consumers. It has been shown how the consumption of yogurt and other dairy products was associated with a higher intake of calcium, protein and vitamin D and an inverse association with the consumption of fats (both total and saturated). It has also been shown that individuals who regularly consume yogurt have greater weight lossCalcium content and protein profile seem to be the main factors associated with weight loss.

In turn, the consumption of milk proteins stimulates the secretion of hormones that are involved in the regulation of food intake and have an anorexigenic effect, contributing to greater satiety”, lists Torresani.

Also plays an important role in preventing type 2 diabetesas the nutritionist suggests: “Although most of the evidence in recent years suggests a beneficial role of dairy consumption in the risk of type 2 diabetes, only low-fat dairy foods and yogurt have shown a significant role. and consistent, while other dairy products showed no association with prevention of type 2 diabetes. In most studies A protective trend has been observed, suggesting that the consumption of yogurt, regardless of its fat or sugar content, protects against the onset of type 2 diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome”.

In this sense, the recommendation is the consumption of a yogurt a day, which could reduce the risk of diabetes by 14%, 17% or up to 28%. “The incorporation of yogurt should be recommended within the daily and varied consumption of dairy products, within the framework of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet,” says Torresani.

yogurt too may be useful in the prevention of neurological diseases and other metabolic pathologies, in addition to being key in maintaining the microbiota, as has already been said. Now let’s see why.

This dairy exerts action on the stimulation of the immune system, associated with the mucous membranes and the prevention of infections and inflammationshutterstock – Shutterstock

“In recent decades there have been significant advances in the knowledge of microorganisms associated with humans. Different areas of the human body (digestive tract/intestines, skin, vaginal tract, oral cavity, and others) harbor different communities of microorganisms, called microbiota.says the graduate in Nutrition, Dr. Andrea González (MN 1080), head of the Food Department at the Bonorino Udaondo Gastroenterology Hospital.

But, let us start at the beginning. What are we talking about when we talk about microbiota? González explains it simply: “The intestinal microbiota (IM) is the set of microorganisms that colonize the gastrointestinal tract, mainly the colon, and from there perform numerous physiological functions on the host. It is a true ecological niche, where the abundance, diversity, functionality, resistance and resilience of this microbial community condition a state of balance that confers a benefit to health”.

“Bacteria in the gut get energy from leftover food that our digestive-absorptive system couldn’t process. And with these residues, generally fibers and resistant starch, they produce bioactive substances such as neurotransmitters, enzymes, short-chain fatty acids and vitamins”keep going.

For the digestive nutrition expert, “It is worth highlighting its action on the stimulation of the immune system, associated with the mucous membranes and the prevention of infections and inflammation.” Why? “Our intestinal immune system needs constant dialogue with microorganisms. In fact, there are still unsuspected connections between our microbes and our cells, and beyond the gut, such as to the brain, through what is called the gut-brain-microbiota axis.” That is why “Today it is possible to say that ‘we are what we eat’. And based on the importance of the metabolic activity of the microbiota, it is also logical to postulate that what we eat may imply what we get.”

And, although in recent times the consumption of fermented foods and probiotics has been revalued, it is important to clarify that not everything is the same, warns the specialist. And she explains why: “Yogurt is a fermented product with the addition of specific microorganisms for dairy fermentation (Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus Y Streptococcus thermophilus) but are not probiotics.

A yogurt with probiotics is also added with a microorganism that needs to reach the colon alive, in an adequate dose to exert a beneficial effect on health demonstrated by research studies.n. Yogurt contains an average of 108 colony-forming units (CFU)/g of live bacteria that may eventually join the community of commensal microbes that reside in the human gut. Yogurt bacteria survive gastrointestinal transit but generally reach low fecal concentrations (104 to 106 CFU/g feces) compared to resident microbes.

Then, yogurts can be carriers of other beneficial microorganisms called probiotics. These microorganisms, bacteria mostly belonging to the genera lactobacillus Y Bifidobacterium, they have the ability to better survive digestive transit and reach the colonic compartment alive with greater abundance (up to 108 CFU/g of feces), which indicates that they may have a greater contribution to changes in the microbiota when they are consumed in adequate quantities and with continuity”.

It is proven that the consumption of yogurt and other dairy products provide a higher intake of calcium, protein and vitamin D
It is proven that the consumption of yogurt and other dairy products provide a higher intake of calcium, protein and vitamin D Shutterstock

Fermented foods and beverages are a very diverse family of foods transformed by microbial action and can also have very different nutritional matrices. For example, “Yogurt is a fermented food that starts from a defined food matrix: pasteurized milk, with the addition of safe and defined cultures.with which their reproducibility and traceability are guaranteed: they are products registered with the regulatory authority and have good manufacturing practices”, explains González.

Instead, “fermented products such as kefir or kombucha start from an uncontrolled matrix, the cultures are indefinite, so despite the fact that they have living microorganisms, we do not know their compositionits reproducibility cannot be guaranteed and even less its traceability, that is, not all processes can be traced, from the acquisition of raw materials to production, consumption and tolerance, in order to clarify when, how and where what was produced and by whom ”.

Regarding the latest evidence available to date, González adds that an article was published this year in the journal Microbiology, with several European authors, who studied yogurt consumption and its association with changes in composition of the human microbiota and its metabolome (that battery of metabolites produced by microbes from the substrates that reach them).

Yogurt consumers presented transiently and during the time of consumption, a higher abundance of species used as yogurt starters (Streptococcus thermophilus) Y also from added probiotic. In particular, a positive association was observed between the probiotic and a metabolite with anti-inflammatory action detected in fecal matter. “It also showed that the consumption of yogurt was associated with a healthier dietary pattern, something that we already knew from previous reports, and a reduction in visceral fat mass,” concludes the specialist.