The role of yogurt in diabetes and obesity prevention

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A recent study published in Frontiers in Nutrition discusses the role of yogurt as a nutritious food in preventing and managing diabetes and obesity.

Study: Yogurt, in the context of a healthy diet, for the prevention and management of diabetes and obesity: a perspective from Argentina. Image Credit: Aquarius Studio / Shutterstock.com

Risk factors for diabetes

Diabetes is a non-communicable chronic disease characterized by persistently high blood glucose levels. In some cases, diabetes can develop due to unhealthy lifestyles, including inadequate diet and lack of physical activity; therefore, obesity is considered a major risk factor for diabetes onset. The prevalence of both obesity and diabetes is exponentially increasing worldwide.

Health benefits of yogurt

Yogurt is a low-calorie fermented dairy product that provides a balanced proportion of proteins, essential nutrients, as well as a range of viable beneficial bacteria. In fact, consuming 100 grams of yogurt each day as part of a healthy diet of 2,000 kcal is responsible for 5% of overall diet quality.   

Several nutritional studies have demonstrated that the consumption of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. Yogurt has also been shown to improve gastrointestinal health and proper functioning of the immune system.

Dietary patterns in Argentina

In Argentina, the most recent national survey report indicates that about 52% and 13% of the population has obesity and diabetes, respectively. A decline of about 44% in moderate-to-high intensity physical activity has also been observed in the population as compared to previous surveys. Furthermore, the survey finds that only 6% of the Argentinian population consume recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, while 22% of the population use tobacco products.

Recent diet-quality surveys in Argentina indicate that the dietary pattern of only 11% of households has a high nutritional density. The food gap, which is defined as the difference between apparent intake and healthy recommendations, is about 60% in high nutrient density vegetable foods and 48% in dairy products.

Thus, improving the nutritional quality of the Argentinian diet can be achieved by reducing food gaps, as well as starchy food and meat intake.

Yogurt intake in Argentina

The current annual consumption of yogurt in Argentina is about four kilograms/person/year, which is a significant reduction from 2012 estimates of 10 kg/person/year. Overall, the consumption of both full-fat and skim yogurt has declined by 44% in the past 10 years in Argentina.

Yogurt is not indicated as a source of viable beneficial bacteria in the dietary guidelines for Argentina. However, in north American and European countries, yogurt is recognized as a nutritious dairy product with significant health benefits.

According to an economic model for yogurt use in diabetes risk reduction in the United Kingdom, the consumption of 100 grams of yogurt each day by adults can lead to 388,000 fewer people developing diabetes in the next 25 years. In the United States, similar levels of yogurt consumption by adults can potentially reduce healthcare costs by billions of dollars.

Yogurt for diabetes management

In 2019, the prevalence of diabetes in Argentina was estimated to be 13%. The anti-diabetic activity of low-fat yogurt could be attributed to its low glycemic load and presence of various nutrients, including proteins, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.

Furthermore, certain saturated fatty acids present in yogurt, such as pentadecanoic and heptadecanoic acids, are associated with diabetes risk reduction. In this context, previous studies have predicted that daily yogurt consumption of 50 grams can lead to a 7% reduced risk of diabetes.

Plain or natural yogurt has a lower glycemic index than sweetened yogurt, which could be due to a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio in plain yogurt. The fermentation process involved in yogurt production can reduce carbohydrate bioavailability by converting then into organic acids and polysaccharides.

The viable beneficial bacteria present in yogurt have been shown to improve blood lipid profiles, reduce cholesterol levels, and increase antioxidant status in diabetic patients. Moreover, organic acids present in yogurt, such as lactic acid, can reduce postprandial blood glucose levels and insulinemia.

Yogurt for obesity management

The prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in Argentina has been estimated to be over 40%. Among adults, the prevalence of obesity is six for every 10 individuals.

Gut microbiota dysbiosis, which is characterized by an imbalance in the composition and diversity of the microbiome, is a major contributor to obesity. Obesity-related alterations in gut microbiota can lead to increased fat deposition, impaired energy balance, increased inflammation, and metabolic dysfunction.

Yogurt can reduce the risk of obesity by replacing less healthy foods with its diverse nutritional components and viable beneficial bacteria. Yogurt can also impact appetite regulation, energy balance, and different anthropometric parameters, including body mass index (BMI).

Epidemiological studies have shown that yogurt consumption is associated with reduced BMI, overall obesity, and abdominal obesity. Yogurt consumption has also been associated with reduced total body and abdominal fat deposition, as well as lower weight gain.

Conclusions

Existing scientific evidence indicates that yogurt consumption could be beneficial for the prevention and management of both diabetes and obesity. The rising prevalence of these chronic diseases throughout the world emphasizes the importance of encouraging people to incorporate yogurt as part of their healthy diet to improve public health and reduce healthcare costs.

Journal reference:
  • Britos, S., Gonzalez, A. F., Marco, F. F., et al. (2024). Yogurt, in the context of a healthy diet, for the prevention and management of diabetes and obesity: a perspective from Argentina. Frontiers in Nutrition. doi:10.3389/fnut.2024.1373551.   
Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Written by

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master's degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.

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