Eating yogurt regularly does not improve health, quality of life

22 Apr

Yogurt is frequently lauded for its healthful properties, but a new study investigating the effects of regular yogurt consumption has suggested that it does not lead to improvements in health.

Two portions of yogurt with assorted berries.
Regular yogurt consumption has been associated with reduced risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, followed 4,445 Spanish adults, analyzing the relationship between the participants’ health-related quality of life and yogurt consumption for an average of 3.5 years.

“The regular consumption of yogurt was not linked to health-related quality of life,” states lead author Esther López-García, of the Autonomous University of Madrid. “For future research more specific instruments must be used which may increase the probability of finding a potential benefit of this food.”

Health-related quality of life is a concept that encompasses “aspects of overall quality of life that can be clearly shown to affect health – either physical or mental,” as defined by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For individuals, this can involve health conditions and risks as well as socioeconomic support and status.

In Spain, where the study was conducted, the main dietary guidelines support the consumption of dairy products such as yogurt as part of a healthy, balanced diet, just as they do in many other countries.

“This is because the majority of studies have focused on the effect as a whole, but it would be interesting to evaluate the independent association between each type of product and global health indicators,” suggests López-García.

Several experts have previously suggested that yogurt could influence health-related quality of life due to its high calcium content – vital for protecting the bones against debilitating disease. Other research has associated yogurt consumption with direct health benefits, such as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

No significant improvements in health-related quality of life for regular yogurt eaters

For the study, the researchers recruited 4,445 participants between 2008-2010 aged 18 and over. The routine yogurt consumption of the participants was recorded at the start of the study along with a validated diet history.

The health-related quality of life for the participants was then measured using surveys up until 2012, giving an average follow-up period of 3.5 years.

“In comparison with people that did not eat yogurt, those who ate this dairy product regularly did not display any significant improvement in their score on the physical component of quality of life, and although there was a slight improvement mentally, this was not statistically significant,” states López-García.

Specifically, participants that consumed six or fewer servings of yogurt a week reported similar physical health survey scores compared with participants that consumed at least one serving every day. These results were similar among participants that had no diagnosed illnesses, never smoked or followed the Mediterranean diet.

Unfortunately, the researchers only assessed yogurt consumption at the start of the study. Individual levels of yogurt consumption may have changed during the follow-up period. Additionally, the researchers did not track the consumption of other food items that may have influenced their findings.

The findings of the study could be used to help evaluate any claims from the dairy industry concerning the healthful properties of yogurt. The US Department of Agriculture, for example, must review any such claims put forward by the food industry in order to allow or reject their commercial use.

Last month, Medical News Today reported on a study that set out to investigate whether there was any truth behind the proverbial claim that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Although regular apple consumption did not reduce the use of health care services, it did reduce reliance on prescription medications.