Background: Yoghurt is part of the diet of many people worldwide and is commonly recognised as a 'health food'. Epidemiological studies suggest that yoghurt may be useful as part of weight management programs. In the absence of comprehensive systematic reviews, this systematic review investigated the effect of yoghurt consumption by apparently healthy adults on weight-related outcomes.
Methods: An extensive literature search was undertaken, as part of a wider scoping review, to identify yoghurt studies. A total of 13 631 records were assessed for their relevance to weight-related outcomes.
Results: Twenty-two publications were eligible according to the review protocol. Cohort studies (n=6) and cross-sectional studies (n=7) all showed a correlation between yoghurt and lower or improved body weight/composition. Six randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and one controlled trial had various limitations, including small size and short duration. One RCT showed significant effects of yoghurt on weight loss, but was confounded by differences in calcium intake. One trial showed nonsignificant weight gain and the remaining five trials showed nonsignificant weight losses that were greater in yoghurt consumers.
Conclusions: Yoghurt consumption is associated with lower body mass index, lower body weight/weight gain, smaller waist circumference and lower body fat in epidemiological studies. RCTs suggest weight reduction effects, but do not permit determination of a cause-effect relationship. Well-controlled, adequately powered trials in research and community settings appear likely to identify a modest but beneficial effect of yoghurt consumption for prevention of weight gain and management of obesity. The ready availability of yoghurt (a nutrient-dense food) and its ease of introduction to most diets suggests that educating the public to eat yoghurt as part of a balanced and healthy diet may potentially contribute to improved public health. Future carefully designed RCTs could provide proof of principle and large community-based studies could determine the practical impact of yoghurt on body weight/composition.