Researchers led by a team from the Autonomous University of Madrid have found that yogurt does not have a positive effect on health, even though the dairy product has been highly recommended for years. Few studies have assessed how eating yogurt actually affects health, but now there is proof that it actually has no positive effect.

In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers evaluated the link between regularly consuming yogurt and mental and physical improvements in body as reflected by results from the SF-12 survey. Across a three-year period, 4,445 Spanish adults (all 18 years old and above and recruited between 2008 and 2010) were followed by researchers, analyzing changes in their health-related quality of life as they consumed yogurt.

But as Esther Lopez-Garcia, lead author for the study, simply put it: regularly consuming yogurt was not associated with improvements in health-related quality of life.

Even after taking into consideration other risk factors that could have affected the results of the study, Lopez-Garcia and colleagues still concluded that eating yogurt has no effect on health. Some improvements were reported in mental health measures but these were not significant enough statistically.

Dietary guidelines in Spain and many other countries list dairy products as necessary to a healthy diet but the researchers pointed out that this is because most studies highlight the effects of eating dairy as a whole and not how each food separately affects health.

Previous studies have hinted that consuming yogurt may directly or indirectly influence health-related quality of life. For experts, one of the major reasons dairy (or yogurt, specifically) is seen as essential to health is because it contains high levels of calcium. The vitamin helps strengthen bones, aiding in fighting osteomuscular illnesses, which can negatively impact quality of life. Others point to a connection with reduced weight gain, lower blood pressure and lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

Aside from Lopez-Garcia, Fernando Rodriguez-Artalejo, Pilar Guallar-Castillon and Luz Leon-Munoz also contributed to the study.

Currently, the European Food Safety Authority evaluates health claims in food items, ensuring all are supported scientifically. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does the same, allowing or rejecting claims made by the food industry to determine what could be used for commercial purposes. The results of the study may provide these agencies with new information with which they can evaluate claims made by players in the dairy industry.

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