Context: Health benefits of yogurt are well documented in adults and older children, but less is known about the effects of yogurt in infants and toddlers (aged 4 to 24 months).
Objective: The aim of this qualitative systematic review was to assess the effects of yogurt and fermented milk products on the health of infants and toddlers.
Data sources: PubMed was searched for English-language papers. No date restrictions were applied.
Study selection: Randomized controlled trials, observational studies, and prospective cohort studies were included. Systematic or narrative reviews, conference abstracts, and dissertations were excluded. In total, 1624 abstracts were screened, of which 1614 were excluded.
Data extraction: Full texts of the remaining 10 abstracts were independently reviewed by both authors, who reached consensus about relevance, methods, findings, quality, and conclusions of the included studies.
Results: The included studies (published between 1987 and 2017) were heterogeneous with respect to sample size, study population, and type of yogurt used. Five of six studies showed a positive effect of yogurt consumption on infectious diarrhea. Two studies reported a positive effect on gut microbiota composition. Two cohort studies reported a positive effect on reducing the incidence of atopic dermatitis, one of which also reported a positive impact on food sensitivity.
Conclusions: Published evidence, much of it decades old, supports a health benefit of yogurt consumption in infants and children. New short- and long-term studies are needed to better evaluate the impact of yogurt consumption in contemporary settings.
Keywords: complementary feeding; fermented foods; infant; toddler; yogurt.
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