Health and fermented dairy: How do popular foods stack up as therapeutics?

In a bid to evaluate the therapeutic effects of products like cheese, yogurt and kefir, researchers from four academic institutions in China and Pakistan reviewed published research to identify where there are links between consumption and positive disease management outcomes.

For example, existing research has shown that yogurt can be used to manage osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease, and its consumption has been linked with preventing diarrhea and reducing lactose intolerance. “The major way that yogurt helps manage osteoporosis is because it contains a lot of calcium, which is good for strong bones,” the researchers pointed out in their review. “Enhanced with vitamin D, it also improves the absorption of calcium. Bone health is enhanced by the protein and other nutrients included in it.”

The review also concluded that yogurt intake is more consistently linked with reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes compared to other dairy products. Probiotic yogurt in particular has also been proven to positively impact people with liver conditions, according to existing research examined by the authors.

However, yogurt’s therapeutic effects on cancer were less clear-cut based in existing evidence, the authors pointed out.

Kefir’s anti-cancer potential has been demonstrated through several studies, its consumption linked with slowing down tumor growth in mice and reducing the development of colorectal cancer cells.

The fermented beverage – which is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and beneficial bacteria – has also been found to exhibit antimicrobial properties, largely due to its high probiotics content, organic acids and bioactive compounds. Similarly to yogurt, kefir has also been proven to aid digestion including of lactose; improve the gut lining, and reduce allergy and asthma risks.