Yogurt and Maintenance of the Epithelial Gut Barrier

When I was a kid, there was a commercial on TV that I’ve never forgotten, for Dannon Yogurt. It showed a bunch of people from Soviet held Georgia who were all around 100 years old, looking like they were in their 60s, actively running around doing farming, chopping wood, etc.  The voice over pointed out that yogurt was a huge part of their diet.  Take 30 seconds to watch it here – I just found it on You Tube!

Anyway, it made a huge impression on me, probably because we started eating yogurt around then, having NO idea what “active yogurt cultures” meant. (You’ll notice there is no mention of probiotics, bacteria, etc. in the commercial.)  I loved yogurt as soon as I tasted it, and have been a big eater of it since.  On that note, I came across an article definitely worth sharing with you on the health benefits of yogurt.  Yogurt is “…a rich source of high-quality protein, calcium, phosphorus, and folate.  Moreover, yogurt serves as an important source of probiotic bacteria that may also confer a benefit on gut barrier function by stimulating the diversity and function of the gastrointestinal microbiota, reducing intestinal transit time, and enhancing gastrointestinal innate and adaptive immune responses.”[i]

A cross-sectional study of 1076 men and women (from 2 different cohorts) was conducted at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health looking at specific health outcomes from eating yogurt.  The scientists wanted to see how yogurt affects a blood marker for gut barrier dysfunction (CD14), i.e. leaky gut.  CD14 is a molecule released by certain immune cells as a response to lipopolysaccharides, which are toxic metabolites produced by some types of gut bacteria.  An immune response to these toxins, seen in the blood, means that they are making their way out of the gut – thus, it is a marker for issues with the gut barrier.

The researchers found that the consumption of two cups of yogurt per week makes a statistically significant improvement in CD14 concentrations (especially in men) indicating that it makes a meaningful difference in improving epithelial barrier function:  “Our findings suggest the strengthening of gut barrier function as a plausible mechanism for the observed inverse associations of yogurt consumption with gastrointestinal diseases and disorders involving other systems.”

By the way, we know from past research that diet is a major factor in gut health and barrier function, as you know.  (Read this post, for example, from October 2018.) And we know from other studies that fermented milk products affect the immune system positively and protects against the risk factors for type 2 diabetes,[ii]  as well as obesity, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and intestinal disorders.

So there you have it:  high quality yogurt should certainly be a part of everyone’s diet!


[i] Luo, X., Sui, J., Birmann, B.M. et al. Association between yogurt consumption and plasma soluble CD14 in two prospective cohorts of US adults. Eur J Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02303-3

[ii] https://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/health-benefits-linked-to-yogurt-consumption-could-be-explained-as-a-result-of-improvements-in-gut-barrier-function/

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