Is Yogurt Really Beneficial for Healthy Aging?

 

Aging is inevitable and there’s nothing we can change about that. However, there are plenty of things we can do about our health. To most people, aging is associated with a wide array of diseases and health conditions. Although the risk of suffering from some diseases increases as we age, we can still preserve our wellbeing and age in a healthy manner with lifestyle adjustments. These lifestyle adjustments include physical activity and healthy diet. Consumption of yogurt has been associated with different health benefits, but is it really that healthy? Keep reading to find out!

Nutritional value

Yogurt is nutrient-dense food with the ability to improve the bioavailability of essential nutrients and the overall health and wellbeing. Due to the fact that any elderly is usually subjected to malnutrition, yogurt consumption is a good way of supplying the body with health-improving nutrients. Malnutrition in elderly can occur due to various reasons such as chronic illnesses, decreased metabolic rate and physical activity, difficulty ingesting foods, decreased mobility, low income etc. Elderly people are prone to lactose intolerance which is why they aren’t able to get all the important nutrients from dairy products. However, individuals who are lactose intolerant can still safely consume yogurt without experience different “side effects”.

Regular consumption of yogurt is considered as healthy, economic, and beneficial way of supplying the body with macronutrients it needs in order to function properly. Below, you can see nutrients your body can get from yogurt:

  • Probiotics – Codex Standard for Fermented Milk 2003 states that all yogurt products should contain live, viable, and abundant cultures of LAB (lactic acid bacteria) which have been used to ferment or culture foods for about 4000 years
  • Minerals – Yogurt is abundant in minerals. For example, 100-gram serving of yogurt contains 183 mg of calcium, 17 mg magnesium, 234 mg potassium, 144 mg phosphorous, and 0.9 mg zinc. Concentrations of these minerals are higher in yogurt than in milk by 50%.
  • Vitamins – Yogurt is rich in vitamins, particularly B complex. For instance, 100-gram serving of plain low-fat yogurt contains 0.05 mg Vitamins B6, 0.56 mg B12, 0.11mg niacin, 0.21 mg riboflavin. It is important to bear in mind that Greek yogurt and other types of processed yogurts contain lower levels of these vitamins.
  • Protein – Yogurt contains high levels of essential amino acids of high biological quality.
Yogurt Nutritional value

Nutritional Deficiencies and Health Problems You Can Relieve With Yogurt

Review of studies conducted by El-Abbadi N.H. and team of researches of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts aimed to inspect the role of yogurt in healthy aging. Results of their review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show that yogurt can address the following health problems and nutritional deficiencies:

Vitamin D and calcium deficiency
It is common in elderly and is caused by age-related decrease in cutaneous Vitamin D3 production, lifestyle factors e.g. physical inactivity or spending too much time indoors, and poor nutrition. Regular consumption of dairy products (including yogurt) protects elderly from bone loss that results with deficiency of Vitamin D and calcium. Therefore, yogurt is extremely beneficial for bone health.

Musculoskeletal health
As mentioned above, yogurt is rich in proteins. Increase in protein intake in older individuals increases bone and muscle health without affecting renal function. Besides improving muscle and bone health, yogurt is also linked with lower incidence of hip fractures, prevention of demineralization of tooth enamel. In fact, scientists discovered that yogurt promotes re-mineralization of tooth enamel. Furthermore, postmenopausal women who consume yogurt regularly have significant reduction of urinary markers of bone resorption (process where calcium and other minerals are transferred from bone fluid to the blood). Lower amounts of bone resorption indicate a more positive bone balance.

Area Finding
Bone and muscle health
  • PTH and bone resorption markers decreased after supplementation
  • Yogurt CCPs protected molars against demineralization and promoted remineralization
  • Decreased bone resorption, as seen by a significant decrease in urinary N-telopeptide
  • Yogurt intake was positively associated with trochanter bone mineral density and was mildly protective against hip fractures; authors stated that this protection needs to be verified further

Obesity
Consumption of yogurt and other dairy products replaces intake of other foods that are higher in calories and fat. Due to the fact that yogurt is a probiotic, it promotes healthy and regular digestion which is essential for weight loss and management of healthy weight. Effect of yogurt on maintaining weight and helping in weight loss is also associated with altered gut bacteria. Furthermore, calcium (particularly when it derives from dairy products) promotes both weight loss and fat loss.

Inflammatory and cardiometabolic diseases
Yogurt intake is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases. For example, higher yogurt consumption is linked with lower risk of diabetes in postmenopausal women. Additionally, yogurt improves level of HDL (good) cholesterol and decreases risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women. Netherlands Cohort Study linked yogurt with decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as lower risk of all-cause mortality.

Area Finding
Cardiometabolic Disease
  • Fermented milk intake was inversely associated with all-cause mortality in men and women
  • Yogurt intake was associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Fermented dairy product consumption was inversely related to cardiovascular disease
  • In the yogurt group there was a significantly lower risk of catching the common cold, and a significant increase in natural killer cell activity
  • Endotoxemia and leukocyte phagocytosis decreased in both groups after yogurt consumption; monocyte and neutrophil activity (ex vivo production of cytokines or reactive oxygen species, respectively) increased in the positive breath test group after consumption

Immunosenescence
Deficiency of macronutrients, inadequate diet and malnutrition impair immune system. Yogurt consumption enhances immune response thus reducing infectious disease risk. Yogurt components that improve immunity include bacteria, zinc, protein, and Vitamin B6. Moreover, daily consumption of yogurt with live culture improves resistance to respiratory infections, particularly colds and flu, in elderly.

Mental health and cognition
Cross-sectional analysis in 1183 men and women (aged 39 – 65) from Australia showed that improved memory and social functioning were significantly associated with consumption of low-fat yogurt.

Area Finding
Cognition Low-fat yogurt intake was associated with memory recall (self-reported) and social functioning in men

Conclusion

Yogurt belongs to the group of foods that have immense ability to improve the overall health and wellbeing, particularly in elderly individuals. Regular consumption of yogurt is associated with improved immunity, decreased risk of chronic diseases, stronger bones and muscles. Review of scientific studies conducted up to date also stresses the importance of further investigations that need to be conducted in order to inspect more health benefits that yogurt has to offer.

Reference

  • El-Abbadi NH, Dao MC, Meydani SN. Yogurt: role in healthy and active aging. Am J ClinNutr. 2014 May;99(5 Suppl):1263S-70S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.073957. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24695886
 
 
Author

Expert Author : Dr. Atanas G Atanasov (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Atanasov first studied at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria, and then later on received a PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Bern, Switzerland. Since 2008, he is a senior researcher at Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Vienna, Austria, where he was actively involved in the execution of the Austrian national network "Drugs From Nature Targeting Inflammation" (DNTI), a collaborative research project which has been financed with >3 000 000 Euro from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) to support the identification and characterization of plant-derived natural products counteracting inflammatory responses.