There is a growing body of evidence linking yogurt consumption to improved health, and additional research to identify the scientific link between yogurt and potential health benefits is underway, scientists say. International nutrition experts gathered at the First Global Summit on the Health Effects of Yogurt in Boston on April 24, 2013 to present the current state of the science on the health effects of yogurt and identify research gaps that need to be addressed within the scientific community.
The unique nutrient profile of yogurt has spurred research on its impact on a variety of topics such as bone and gut health, diabetes, body weight regulation, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Much of what is known about the potential health effects of yogurt has come from studies examining one’s overall consumption of dairy products, including milk and cheese. Fewer studies have focused on yogurt specifically.
Several studies have also shown that yogurt consumption could aid weight management, say scientists. A prospective study on three cohorts involving more than 120,000 U.S. adults showed that consumption of yogurt, fruits, vegetables and whole grains were associated with less weight gain over time, with yogurt showing the greatest association. Another study showed that yogurt consumption is linked with smaller gains in weight and waist circumference over time.
“Current research on the potential impact of yogurt on health is encouraging and we look forward to learning more about the unique contribution that yogurt offers to individuals and overall public health,” says Sharon M. Donovan, PhD, RD, Past President of the ASN and professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois. “Our goal in this initiative is to document what we know and what we do not know to guide future research efforts.”
The First Global Summit on the Health Effects of Yogurt is part of the multi-year Yogurt in Nutrition Initiative (YINI), a global collaboration between the American Society for Nutrition, Danone Institute International and the Nutrition Society in the United Kingdom to evaluate the current evidence base on the nutritional impact of yogurt. Through annual scientific conferences and supporting activities, this initiative aims to stimulate new research and communicate available scientific information to health care professionals and the public.
At the summit, experts discussed the need for studies that examine the specific health attributes of yogurt, the optimal role of dairy foods in a healthy diet and the effect of yogurt on specific populations, such as the young and the elderly. The U.S.-based Dairy Research Institute also partnered in this inaugural summit.