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Can Eating Yogurt Reduce Cardiometabolic Risk?

strawberry yogurt in plastic cupPostprandial inflammation is associated with an increased risk for insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.1 In obese individuals the intestinal function is compromised, leading to chronic inflammation and exposure to endotoxins, which are toxins present inside a bacterial cell that is released when the cell disintegrates. Bacterial endotoxins cross the intestinal barrier and cause systemic inflammation. Dairy proteins and calcium may lessen these negative effects, which include hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. They delay gastric emptying and decrease fat absorption.2  Based on this information, Ruison Pei, PhD, MS, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison theorized that eating yogurt before a meal would reduce these postprandial chronic inflammation biomarkers. This would then reduce the risk for cardiometabolic disease in healthy premenopausal women. She and her colleagues further hypothesized that the positive effects of reducing inflammation and improving metabolism would be more profound in obese women than in normal-weight women, due to intestinal barrier dysfunction associated with obesity.3

Pei and her colleagues did two studies looking at the same group of women: 120 randomly assigned premenopausal women who ate 339 grams of low-fat yogurt or 324 grams of soy pudding for 9 weeks before a meal. Half of each group had BMI levels considered healthy and the other half had obese levels. In the first study, they found the obese women who ate yogurt had less inflammatory biomarkers and less hyperglycemia than those who ate the pudding. The women without obesity who ate yogurt had less hypoglycemia than those eating the pudding.2 In the second study, they saw lower tumor necrosis factor levels and higher endotoxin antibodies in the women eating yogurt, regardless of their weight. The women who were obese and ate yogurt had 3-6% lower diastolic blood pressure.4

The conclusion reached is that eating 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt before a meal can improve post-meal metabolism and therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Brad Bolling, PhD, one of the investigators, said the goal of future research is to identify which compounds in yogurt produce the inflammation lowering effects. He states: “Ultimately we would like to see these components optimized in foods, particularly for medical situations where it is important to inhibit inflammation through the diet. We think this is a promising approach."3

  1. O'Keefe JH, Bell DSH. Postprandial hyperglycemia/hyperlipidemia (postprandial dysmetabolism) is a cardiovascular risk factor. Am J Cardiol 2007;100:899–904.
  2. Pei R, Martin DA, DiMarco DM, Bolling BW. Evidence for the effects of yogurt on gut health and obesity. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2015;57(8):1569–83.
  3. Pei R, et al. J Nutr. The Journal of Nutrition, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy046
  4. Pei R, DiMarco D, Putt K, Martin D, Gu Q, Chitchumroonchokchai C, White HM, Scarlett C, Bruno R, Bolling B. Low-fat yogurt consumption reduces biomarkers of chronic inflammation and inhibits markers of endotoxin exposure in healthy premenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Nutr 017;118:1043–51.