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The Benefits of Yogurt

What's tasty, easy, and has lots of health benefits? Yogurt!
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Have you noticed that the yogurt section of most grocery stores has practically taken over the dairy aisle? It’s getting harder to find more traditional dairy foods, such as cottage cheese and sour cream, amid the sea of yogurt options. But it only makes sense that a food with as many health benefits as yogurt be given prime real estate in the supermarket.

And just what are the health benefits of yogurt?

First off, let us not forget that yogurt comes from milk. So yogurt eaters will get a dose of animal protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium.

But one of the words we're hearing more and more of regarding yogurt is "probiotics." Probiotics are "friendly bacteria" that are naturally present in the digestive system. Live strains of these "good bacteria" are also found in many yogurt products. While more research needs to be done, there's some evidence that some strains of probiotics can help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract.

Probiotics made news recently when a class action lawsuit was filed against the Dannon Co. over marketing for its Activia and DanActive products, in which the company uses trademarked probiotic strains. Activia is a yogurt marketed as being "clinically proven to help regulate the digestive system when eaten daily for two weeks," while DanActive is a drink marketed as being "clinically proven to help strengthen the body's defense systems," according to company web sites.

The lawsuit, filed by a California law firm, alleges that Dannon engaged in a "massively deceptive" advertising campaign about those products' "clinically" and "scientifically" proven health benefits not available in other yogurts. But Dannon is challenging the suit. "The scientifically substantiated benefits of Dannon’s products are confirmed not only by the scientific journals that have reviewed and published the findings, but also by the millions of highly satisfied consumers who enjoy Dannon’s products," the company says in a news release.

Regardless of this dispute, the health benefits of yogurt are so impressive that many health-conscious people make it a daily habit. And each year, more and more research is published adding insight into the health benefits from eating yogurt.

Here are six possible health benefits to having some yogurt each day:

Benefit No. 1: Yogurt With Active Cultures May Help the Gut

While more study is needed, there's some evidence that yogurt with active cultures may help certain gastrointestinal conditions, including:

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Colon cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • H. pylori infection

That's what researchers from the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded in a review article. The benefits are thought to be due to:

  • Changes in the microflora of the gut
  • The time food takes to go through the bowel.
  • Enhancement of the body's immune system (more on this below).

In another recent study, the type of diarrhea that some people get after taking antibiotics was found to be reduced when the study participants drank a drink containing three particular probiotics (L. casei, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus).

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