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The Benefits of Yogurt

What's tasty, easy, and has lots of health benefits? Yogurt!
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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).

Benefit No. 2: Some Probiotic Strains May Boost the Immune System

While much also remains to be learned about probiotics and the immune system, recent studies suggest that certain probiotic strains offer some benefits:

  • One review article suggests probiotics may help with inflammatory bowel disease by changing the intestinal microflora and lessening the immune system response that can worsen the disease.
  • Another study indicated probiotics may enhance resistance to and recovery from infection. In research on elderly people, researchers found that the duration of all illnesses was significantly lower in a group that consumed a certain probiotic found in fermented milk. They reported a possible 20% reduction in the length of winter infections (including gastrointestinal and respiratory infections).
  • Yogurt containing two probiotics, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, was found to improve the success of drug therapy (using four specific medications) on 138 people with persistent H. pylori infections, according to a recent Taiwanese study. H. pylori is a bacterium that can cause infection in the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. It can lead to ulcers and can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer as well.

Benefit No. 3: Yogurt With Active Cultures May Discourage Vaginal Infections

Candida or "yeast" vaginal infections are a common problem for women with diabetes. In a small study, seven diabetic women with chronic candidal vaginitis consumed 6 ounces of frozen aspartame-sweetened yogurt per day (with or without active cultures).

Even though most of the women had poor blood sugar control throughout the study, the vaginal pH (measure of acidity or basicity) of the group eating yogurt with active cultures dropped from 6.0 to 4.0 (normal pH is 4.0-4.5). These women also reported a decrease in candida infections. The women eating the yogurt without active cultures remained at pH 6.0.

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