Science Gives New Perspective on Fermented Dairy Products

The popularity of fermented dairy products is constantly on the rise due to their nutritional and health benefits - their positive effects on the gut, in particular.

Fermented dairy products are obtained through the fermentation of milk using different microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast.

The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients and removes potential allergens, like lactose, which makes them more suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals.

Fermented dairy products are abundant in prebiotics and probiotics, and other bioactive compounds.

A recently published review of the literature on fermented dairy products discussed the products that could be used as nutraceuticals in the food and health industries.

What’s Important

There are two types of fermented dairy products:

  1. Fermented milk - which includes products like yogurt and kefir. There are specific cultures used for each milk. For example, the production of kefir requires the use of both bacterial and yeast microorganisms, giving it its specific nutritional profile.
  2. Cheese is made with the help of lactic acid bacteria. Cheese is the product of the pressed curd of milk and there are over a thousand different types of cheeses.

Their nutritional profile is also very diverse:

  • Proteins - fermented dairy products are rich in proteins, most notably whey and casein proteins.
  • Lipids - generally, yogurt has a lower fat content than milk, but even though the quantity may vary, the quality of lipids remains the same. Yogurt contains more than 25% polyunsaturated fatty acids and 3% monounsaturated fatty acids. Fats in fermented dairy is especially important for fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
  • Carbohydrates - lactose is the main carbohydrate which after fermentation becomes lactic acid, present in up to 98% in natural yogurt, depending on the type of product.
  • Vitamins and minerals - fermented dairy products are abundant in vitamins and minerals with high bioavailability due to the fermentation process. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, as well as vitamin D, and minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium iodide.
  • Prebiotics - components that promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut, i.e. the probiotics.
  • Probiotics - live microorganisms that are very beneficial for general health.
  • Yeasts - there are some yeasts present in the fermentation of milk, most notably Saccharomyces boulardii, often found in kefir. 

Some Details

Fermented dairy products are beneficial because they stimulate the body’s immune responses by affecting the production of the molecules that regulate inflammation.

The presence of lactic acid bacteria gives fermented dairy products an ability to modulate the intestinal microbiota by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria.

This makes them effective in the reduction of various pathogens.

The probiotics in fermented dairy products give them some antioxidant effects.

Certain strains of probiotics are effective in trapping and neutralizing free radicals.

Calcium and vitamin D content make fermented dairy products very beneficial for bone health, especially for children and older adults.

These products are also possibly good for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Bottom Line

Fermented dairy products can be very beneficial for you because of their high content of friendly bacteria, as well as vitamins and minerals.

According to this review, fermented dairy products are some of the best products to be included as part of a healthy and balanced diet.


Resource: García-Burgos, M.; Moreno-Fernández, J.; Alférez, M.; Díaz-Castro, J.; López-Aliaga, I. New perspectives in fermented dairy products and their health relevance. Journal of Functional Foods 2020, 72, 104059. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2020.104059 

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