Yogurt lowers blood pressure, prevents arthritis, and boosts gut health, study finds

May 16, 2018  11:37

Eating yogurt as an appetizer before meals could ease inflammation, hypertension and boost gut health, a new study has found. 

According to The Daily Mail, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked 60 premenopausal women - half obese and half normal weight - to eat 12 ounces of low-fat sweetened yogurt every day. 

Meanwhile, another 60 ate the equivalent amount of a non-dairy snack. 

They found that, even in those who ate plenty of meat and carbs, the yogurt appetizer helped to off-set the inflammation caused by saturated fat. 

The study is the latest to show fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese can have transformative effects on gut health and inflammation, running against the popular health fad of shunning dairy products.  

'We saw an immediate effect, that lasted for nine weeks, and we hypothesized that this would improve over time,' lead author Dr Brad Bolling, a professor of food science, told Daily Mail Online.  

Chronic inflammation is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases.

Inflammation can be good as it is part of the body's innate immune system, our first line of defence against illness and injury.

But when it lasts too long it can lead to where the body essentially attacks itself, wreaking biological havoc on our organs and systems.

Anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin, naproxen, hydrocortisone and prednisone can help mitigate the effects of chronic inflammation but each carries their own risks and side effects.

So for the past two decades scientists have looked at alternatives, particularly safe, gentle, long-term treatments.

But results have been mixed sparking a debate whether dairy products are pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.

Yogurt, Dr Bolling said, appears to be the most promising dairy product to fight dangerous inflammation. 

'We were interested in the entire category of dairy because in some prior human intervention studies where obese individuals had consumed milk, cheese and yogurt there was a general anti-inflammatory effect,' Dr Bolling told Daily Mail Online. 

'So we wanted to look closer because we had to choose one. Yogurt looked most promising in terms of the gut health connection. 

'There had been one or two smaller gut health intervention studies using yogurt, and one in animals.'

Yogurt is made by infusing milk with 'good' bacteria, causing it to ferment. These live bacteria stimulate the gut's friendly bacteria and suppress harmful bacteria.

For the study, one of the largest human intervention studies to look at yogurt, he picked a simple low-fat sweetened yogurt, primarily because it was the most widely available in the US. 

'There was nothing really special or fancy about the composition,' he added. 

Half were assigned to eat 12oz of low-fat yogurt every day for nine weeks while the other half ate a non-dairy pudding.

Fasting blood samples were taken at various points to evaluate an assortment of biomarkers that scientists have used over the years to measure endotoxin exposure and inflammation.

The participants saw a significant drop in harmful inflammatory molecules entering the blood stream.

The yogurt appetizer also improved glucose metabolism in the obese by speeding the reduction of post-meal blood glucose levels.

The findings add further weight to the idea that fermented dairy may dampen chronic inflammation, a factor in inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and asthma.

'The results indicate that ongoing consumption of yogurt may be having a general anti-inflammatory effect,' Dr Bolling explained.  

It is not clear whether there is an 'upper limit' for how much yogurt a day is beneficial.   

Dr Bolling admits his study did not explore higher quantities than 12 ounces of yogurt a day (about 300 calories) because that is a little more than half the daily recommended serving of dairy in the US. 

'I don't know why anyone would really want to eat more than that,' he said. 

The study also did not identify which compounds in yogurt are responsible for the shift in biomarkers associated with the health-promoting effect or how they act in the body.

Dr Bolling said that is the next step.

'The goal is to identify the components and then get human evidence to support their mechanism of action in the body,' he said. 

'That's the direction we are going.

'Ultimately, we would like to see these components optimised in foods, particularly for medical situations where it's important to inhibit inflammation through the diet.

'We think this is a promising approach.'

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