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Because of its traditional association with healthful properties and an emerging body of scientific research, live and active culture yogurt continues to command the interest of scientists around the world. Researchers are exploring how yogurt and its cultures may have a beneficial effect on the immune system, and how yogurt may help play a role in reducing cholesterol levels and preventing certain diseases. More research is needed, but the results so far are promising.

The following summarizes some of the important medical research conducted to date on the potential benefits of yogurt. Note that more studies need to be done before all of the evidence is considered conclusive.

Yogurt and the Immune System

A report from Tufts University indicates that the potential health attributes associated with eating yogurt stretch beyond protein and calcium. According to an article by Simin Nikbin Meydani, Ph.D. in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2000; 71:861-72), yogurt may help make the immune system more resilient. Given the right circumstances, eating yogurt may help protect the intestinal tract. As a result, yogurt has great potential as a protective, anti-infection agent. Preliminary research indicates that increased yogurt consumption might help increase one's resistance to immune-related diseases such as cancer and infection, particularly gastrointestinal infection. This is believed to be in part due to the live and active cultures (LAC) found in yogurt.
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Yogurt and Lactose Absorption in Lactose-Deficient Patients

Beta-galactosidase, an enzyme that is contained in some yogurts, helps improve lactose absorption in lactase-deficient patients. C.M. Kotz et. al. (J. Dairy Sci. 1994 Dec: 77 [12]; 3538-44) illustrated this point in a study that administered equivalent amounts of milk and yogurt to subjects. Those subjects who consumed yogurt showed considerably better lactose absorption than those who consumed milk alone.
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Yogurt and Vulvovaginal Candidal (Yeast) Infections

This study assessed whether daily ingestion of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus prevents Vulvovaginal Candidal infections, commonly known as yeast infections. The study, conducted by E. Hilton et. al. (Ann. Intern. Med. 1992 March 1: 116 [5] 353-7), found that such yogurt consumption decreased infections three-fold. The study concluded that eating eight ounces of yogurt containing L. acidophilus on a daily basis decreases candidal colonization and infection.
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Cultural Model for Healthy Eating

Research has shown that populations in the Mediterranean regions, particularly Greece and Southern Italy, in the early 1960s have had the highest adult life expectancies due to lifestyle factors. Additionally, they have had the lowest incidences of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and other diet-related diseases. The study by Beaudouin et. al. (Am J. Clin. Nutr. 1995 Jun: 1402S-1406S) cited the region's lowfat diet containing yogurt as being one of the major health benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle, along with regular physical activity.
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Childhood Diarrhea and Milk Products

Babies are less likely to experience childhood diarrhea if given breast milk without interruption throughout their infancy. On the other hand, according to a study conducted by J.L. Lembcke (Acta Paediatr. Suppl. 1992 Sept: 381 87-92), infants and children fed with non-human milks tend to have more severe illness than those receiving milk-free or lactose - limited formulas. The exception to this rule is fermented milk products, such as yogurt, which may reduce the severity of lactose malabsorption. Additional information is needed to substantiate yogurt's positive effects on acute childhood diarrhea.
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Colon Cancer and Yogurt

More than 1,400 subjects with colon cancer from the Los Angeles area were examined in a study that sought to determine which foods were associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. Results (R.K. Peters; Cancer Causes Control 1992 Sept; 3[5] 457-73) indicated that yogurt intake is associated with a significantly decreased risk of colon cancer.
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Cancer Chemotherapy Patients and Yogurt

Lactose malabsorption, a common side-effect among cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, may be lessened by a diet high in yogurt, according to a study by the University of Naples Department of Pediatrics (M. Pettoello-Mantovani. et. al.; J. Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1995 Feb: 189-95). The study, which tested 20 children during cancer chemotherapy, concluded that there is a decrease in lactose malabsorption when yogurt is given to subjects as part of their treatment.
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*The information contained in this section is intended to provide a balanced presentation of health-related information, including emerging scientific information. Because studies may be preliminary and ongoing, readers should not interpret this information as conclusive. This information does not constitute labeling or advertising for any specific products, and is not intended to endorse any particular products or types of products.