Health Benefits of Yogurt

What are the health benefits of yogurt?

When I was a kid my dad used to tease me about eating yogurt. "Did you know that you're eating milk that's gone off? It's full of bacteria - how can you eat that stuff?" While I knew he was just having a little fun with me, at the time I didn't realize just how close to the truth he was.

What Is Yogurt?

Essentially, it's fermented milk. During the fermentation process, bacteria convert the lactose (basically just the sugar which is in milk) into lactic acid. This lactic acid in combination with the protein in milk give yogurt its distinctive tangy taste. Then when we consume it, a large number of these bacteria are still alive (or should be, as in most countries to be sold as yogurt it must contain live cultures, otherwise it's just fermented milk. From a nutritional perspective, it's a good source of protein, calcium, potassium and phosphorous.

What's A Probiotic?

This is the angle that many marketers push - I'm sure you've seen all of the advertisements describing probiotics as 'good bacteria', with some even showing them running around shooting at the bad bacteria.

According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". More specifically, the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria most commonly used in the production of yogurt are believed to assist in maintaining the balance of beneficial bacteria which naturally exist in the human digestive system.

Proponents of probiotics claim that stress, high levels of alcohol consumption and even prescribed antibiotics can all reduce the levels of these 'good bacteria' and that probiotics are required to restore the balance. A doctor I used to see even recommended eating yogurt after a course of antibiotics to help restore intestinal health.

Studies have shown promising signs that consuming it can be good for intestinal health. According to Yogurt and gut function, an article published by Oskar Adolfsson, Simin Nikbin Meydani and Robert M Russell in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus lactic acid producing bacteria found in yogurt:
"showed promising health benefits for certain gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrheal diseases, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, and allergies"

Great source of calcium.

With an aging population in many western nations, conditions such as osteoporosis need to be taken seriously. Yogurt is a good source of calcium and should be considered as a regular part of your diet particularly of you don't like milk or have trouble digesting milk or other dairy products. Calcium is important for the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones.

Because of the nature of the bacterial fermentation process, people who suffer lactose intollerance may be able to eat yogurt because the lactose which would otherwise be present in other dairy products has been converted into lactic acid during the fermentation process. This can be important consideration as it's an excellent source of the calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals which are present in milk and would otherwise have to be sought elsewhere by sufferers of lactose intollerance.

Good For The Gums.

And according to Dr. Shimazaki of Japan, Yogurt may be good for your gums. In a report published in The Journal of Periodontology, Dr. Shimazaki said he believed that the probiotic effect of lactic acids in yogurt promote good periodontal health. Read more about this claim in Yogurt Good for Gums, Health at

Lowering Cholesterol?

According to a study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism titled Influence of daily consumption of probiotic and conventional yoghurt on the plasma lipid profile in young healthy women a regular daily intake of Probiotic Yogurt can reduce cholesterol levels. The study compared the effects of normal yogurt and probiotic yogurt on 2 groups of women over a period of 4 weeks. The conclusion was that while both normal and probitic yogurt varieties lowered LDL cholesterol, only the probiotic variety raised HDL levels as well - leading to a better total/HDL cholesterol ratio.

During my research for this article, I found lots of studies have been done into the effects of dairy products, probiotics and lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria. I have referenced just a couple of the studies in this article but it seems that the health benefits of yogurt are being actively researched on many fronts.