A new study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that yogurt can reduce inflammation by improving the integrity of the intestinal lining, thus preventing endotoxins, the pro-inflammatory molecules produced by gut microbes, from crossing into the blood stream.
According to the study published in the Journal of Nutrition, inflammation is the body’s first line of defense against illness and injury. However, it could also wreak biological havoc on organs and systems and is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases.
The researchers enrolled 120 premenopausal women, half obese and half non-obese.
Half of the participants were assigned to eat 12 ounces of low-fat yogurt every day for nine weeks while a control group ate non-dairy pudding for nine weeks.
Brad Bolling, assistant professor of food science at Wisconsin-Madison, and his team took fasting blood samples from participants at various points during the study and evaluated an assortment of biomarkers that scientists have used to measure endotoxin exposure and inflammation.
The results showed that while some of the biomarkers remained steady over time, the yogurt-eaters experienced significant improvements in certain key markers, such as tumor necrosis factor or TNF, an important inflammation-activating protein.
“The results indicate that ongoing consumption of yogurt may be having a general anti-inflammatory effect,” said Bolling.
In the study, participants were also involved in a high-calorie meal challenge at the beginning and end of their nine-week dietary intervention.
The challenge, meant to stress an individual’s metabolism, started with either a serving of yogurt or non-dairy pudding followed by a large high-fat, high-carb breakfast meal.
The blood work showed that the yogurt “appetizer” helped reduce endotoxins and inflammation as participants digested the meal over the ensuing hours.
It also helped improve glucose metabolism in obese participants, by speeding the reduction of post-meal blood glucose levels.
Bolling’s study doesn’t identify which compounds in yogurt are responsible for the shift in biomarkers associated with the health-promoting effect or how they act in the body.
Bolling said solving that piece of the puzzle will require more research.