The yogurt industry is a multibillion dollar behemoth, driven mostly by the belief that eating partially spoiled dairy products is good for your health. Now, a new study by researchers from the Autonomous University of Madrid finds that the go-to breakfast for millions of people may have no discernible health benefits at all.
The study followed 4,445 Spanish adults, chronicling their quality of life as it relates to health, along with their yogurt intake for an average period of 3.5 years. They found that yogurt consumption appeared to have no impact on quality of life. More specifically, those who ate six or fewer servings per week were no worse off than those who ate at least one serving every day. Better indicators of health included illness diagnoses, whether or not a person ever smoked and whether or not they followed the Mediterranean Diet.
There was a catch, however: Yogurt consumption was only measured at the start of the study for each participant, between 2008 and 2010 (the study continued through 2012). It’s possible, then, that yogurt consumption may have changed from person to person, especially given its meteoric rise in popularity in the late aughts. Still, based on the results it’s unlikely that eating yogurt (or not eating yogurt) had much of an impact when looking at health from an overall standpoint.
That’s not to say that yogurt doesn’t have more discreet benefits, which is why the researchers would like to study it more directly.
“For future research more specific instruments must be used which may increase the probability of finding a potential benefit of this food,” said lead author Esther López-García. “This is because the majority of studies have focused on the effect as a whole, but it would be interesting to evaluate the independent association between each type of product and global health indicators.”
The biggest fallout from the study will likely have to do with the way yogurt manufacturers label and advertise their products. Producers often use the health angle to market yogurt, even when it’s not always true (Dannon recently agreed to soften its claims for its Activia brand, which touted the digestive benefits of its probiotic content). Now, as research finds that even claims of overall health may be spurious, advertisers may have to change their tune until more detailed research is conducted.