A Yogurt A Day Keeps The Doctor Away!
Consider this: Right now you are walking around with roughly 100 trillion live and diverse gut bacteria which equates to 3-5 lbs of these little critters and 1,000 different strains that are vying for dominance. If the healthy bacteria win, you are in luck. Our gut and the balance of the bacteria within the gut, are responsible for our optimal health, mental health and our weight.
Just recently, the American Society of Nutrition hosted the prestigious Nutrition 2018 Conference in Boston on June 10th. This year’s edition of Yogurt in Nutrition’s symposium is entitled: “Yogurt, more than the sum of its parts” and focused on the notion of the food matrix.
I’ve had the honor to summarize the esteemed Professor Bob Hutkins research presentation: “The Role of Live Bacteria in the Health Potential of Yogurt” below.
What Does the Science Show?
Science shows that gut bacteria do, in fact, influence our intestinal and extra-intestinal health. Research has revealed that obese people, for example, have a less diverse balance of microbes that lean folks, which drives weight gain, inflammation and the consequences of both. Probiotics strengthen the integrity of the lining of the gut, preventing inflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, preventing the ‘chain reaction’ that leads to glucose intolerance, type-2 diabetes, inflammation and obesity. Therefore, our weight is directly impacted by the balance of our healthy microflora.
Our gut houses 70% of our immune system. our mental health is affected as well with 90% of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, being made, not in the brain, but in the gut itself. We have 500 million brain cells in the lining of our gut, and that’s why our gut is considered our ‘second brain.’
You may now get sense of how crucial it is to ensure we create and maintain a healthy microbiome.
Yogurt’s Role in Our Overall Health
For fermented foods such as yogurt, the products of fermentation and the bacteria involved in the fermentation process, can provide additional properties to the food beyond basic nutrition.
Yogurt is a key player as a healthy fermented food addition to our diet. There are fundamental and unique reasons why .
- In general, yogurt bacteria do not reach the GI tract. However, there is increasing evidence that bacteria contained in fermented products survive transit and are biologically active in the colon. Such activities might be part of the mechanisms underlying beneficial health effect
- Regular yogurt consumption was associated with a slight increase in microbial diversity and may alter the function of the existing resident bacteria
- Studies suggest that fermented foods, including yogurt, may confer several health benefits:
- respiratory and gastrointestinal infections
- bone health
- blood pressure
- immune & anti-inflammatory responses
- lactose digestion in individuals with lactose malabsorption
Hutkins highlights that yogurt is different from probiotic yogurt:
- yogurt bacteria are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
- Probiotic bacteria commonly added to yogurt are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp.
Once the healthy gut bacteria from the yogurt do make it to the GI tract, beneficial changes begin to occur such as: increased immune function, lowered Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), enhanced gut barrier, improved digestion, improved bowel changes, lower LDL cholesterol, and increased mineral absorption, Research also shows that yogurt consumption is associated with less weight gain in all cohorts.
Ultimately, a healthy gut promotes healthy cellular changes that encourages longevity, reduced blood pressure, mental well-being and increased bone health.
Diets that are rich in fermented foods, including yogurt, are associated with health and longevity. Consistent daily use of yogurt will aggregate and maintain the bifidobacterial and lactobacilli species of bacteria in the intestinal tract,
Hutkins concludes his presentation with 4 fundamental questions and answers:
- Do fermentation-derived microbes survive transit and reach the gut? YES
- Do fermentation-derived microbes influence the gut microbiota? POSSIBLY
- Do fermentation-derived microbes have biological or functional activity in the gut? POSSIBLY
- Do fermentation-derived microbes contribute to health? YES FOR YOGURT? MAYBE OTHERS
Thus, according to Hutkins, “Fermented foods, including those that contain live microorganisms, should be included as part of a healthy diet”
Article by Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC