Yogurt is often praised for being high in protein and calcium, and even aiding with digestion in some cases. But the latest possible benefit of yogurt is a bit different: Recent research found that it could possibly help people with chronic inflammation, a condition in which the body’s natural response against illness and injury continues for too long. Along with being uncomfortable and downright irritating, chronic inflammation is also linked to many severe diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
The study, discussed in both the Journal of Nutrition and the British Journal of Nutrition, analyzed 120 pre-menopausal women and separated them into two groups. The researchers directed one group of participants to eat 12 ounces of low-fat yogurt every day for nine weeks straight, and directed the second group to eat non-dairy pudding for the same amount of time. At different points during this study, the scientists took blood samples from the women and evaluated biomarkers to measure inflammation. While some biomarkers remained steady, certain markers for inflammation (such as a protein called TNF-) improved tremendously for the folks who ate yogurt.
On top of that, participants also completed a high-calorie “meal challenge” at the beginning and end of the study to stress their metabolism: They ate either their assigned yogurt or pudding, followed by a high-fat and high-carb meal of two sausage muffins and two hash browns. After both challenges, the researchers studied blood work and found that eating yogurt before the heartier meal helped improve some key biomarkers of inflammation. Obese participants who ate the yogurt had an added benefit: They also saw improvements in their glucose metabolism.
"Eating eight ounces of low-fat yogurt before a meal is a feasible strategy to improve post-meal metabolism and thus may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases," said researcher Ruisong Pei in a press release.
It’s worth keeping in mind that this study did not prove that eating yogurt magically stops chronic inflammation; rather, the researchers found a connection between eating yogurt and improvement of the condition. More research is needed to find out which specific compounds in yogurt are responsible for this connection and how they act in the human body.
That said, the new research is promising for anyone looking to add foods to their diet that could possibly help their ongoing inflammation issues. So if you're able to eat dairy, it's worth considering adding yogurt to your grocery list. Always get your doctor’s OK before starting a whole new diet or eating plan.