It’s “my idea of a superfood,” says Dr. Adam Cunliffe, associate professor in human nutrition at London South Bank University. “Everyone should eat it at least once daily.”
His sentiments are echoed by Peter Whorwell, professor in medicine and gastroenterology at the University Hospital of South Manchester: “Everyone should be eating it in one form or another daily.”
This common, inexpensive food protects against infections, bone loss, diabetes, helps people lose weight — and even fights hay fever!
In the latest study, just two portions a week were also shown to benefit the cardiovascular system.
The food these medical experts recommend is natural yogurt.
For confirmation, look at a new study carried out by researchers at Boston University.
They crunched data derived from two large groups of health professionals — the female Nurses Health Study and the male Health Professionals Follow Up Study; over 74,000 participants in total.
After 30 years follow up, hypertensive nurses and male staff who consumed two or more servings of yogurt a week had a 30 per cent and 19 per cent lower risk of heart attack respectively, compared to those who ate less than one serving of yogurt a month. The figures for heart attack together with stroke were reductions of 17 per cent and 21 per cent.
Regular yogurt consumers who also scored highly on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, saw their heart attack and stroke risk fall by 16 per cent and 30 per cent in the two groups respectively.
DASH involves eating more fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts, while cutting back on red meat, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats, sodium, sweets, and sugary drinks.
Dr. Justin Buendia, nutrition scientist and co-author of the study, said, “Our results provide important new evidence that yogurt may benefit heart health alone or as a consistent part of a diet rich in fiber-rich fruit, vegetables and whole grains.”
Reduces The Risk of Hypertension
In a follow-up study just published in the Journal of Hypertension, the Boston group looked at an additional 98,000 nurses and 12,000 male health professionals – 184,000 participants in total – followed up after 20 to 30 years. The researchers were interested in whether long term yogurt consumption could prevent hypertension.
For the health professionals as a whole, they found those eating five portions of yogurt a week reaped the benefit of a 16 per cent lower risk of high blood pressure compared to those eating less than one portion a month. Regular yogurt eaters who also had a higher DASH score had a 30 per cent lower risk compared to those in the lowest yogurt and DASH categories.
Full Fat is Best
Many studies suggest natural full-fat dairy, especially yogurt, will lead to reduced levels of obesity and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Mario Kratz, nutritional scientist based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, looked at all studies comparing low to high-fat dairy. He concluded that “none of the research suggests that the low-fat dairy is better.”
I’ve seen similar findings elsewhere. Low-fat and skim milk are not natural products. They are highly processed foods and they’re not good for you.
Ditte Hobbs, post-doctoral research fellow in human nutrition at Reading University in the UK, agrees with Dr. Kratz: “Yogurts that are high in saturated fat seem to be the most beneficial. There seems to be a neutralizing effect and in some cases a beneficial effect on heart function.”
She believes the heart benefits may come from compounds called lactotripeptides – byproducts of yogurt’s fermentation process. These affect mechanisms that reduce arterial constriction. This in turn lowers blood pressure and the risk of stroke.
Both Dr. Cunliffe and Professor Whorwell recommend eating at least one 5.3-ounce serving of natural yogurt a day to take advantage of its many health properties. Avoid sugary, low-fat, processed versions of yogurt. These are unlikely to have any health benefits.
The best bet is to make your own yogurt. It’s not really hard to do. Counter-top yogurt-making appliances and packaged yogurt starter cultures are easy to find. Then you can make sure no sugar is added, while putting in your own choice of organic fruit if you wish.
The published study doesn’t say whether the participants enjoyed the health benefits from eating well-known brand-name yogurts that frequently don’t have many live cultures, but I suspect this was the case. Just imagine the benefits if you eat good, sugar-free yogurt that’s rich in probiotic cultures!