Two of the worst conditions plaguing modern America are diabetes and heart disease. Interestingly, a precursor to diabetes — metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin sensitivity — is also a risk factor for heart disease.
And, as if the similarities between the two couldn’t get more entangled, both diabetes and heart disease can be controlled (if not prevented) with a healthy diet.
One particular dietary choice has been shown to improve several heart health markers: yogurt. Thanks to healthy bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, yogurt has been shown to improve both cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
However, for some people, yogurt can be problematic, due to lactose intolerance or excess fat and calories, which are even more worrisome for issues such as insulin resistance and diabetes.
But what if you took regular yogurt and fortified it with even more powerful heart nutrients, as well as a few shown to help reduce body fat? Could you make this breakfast basic a super food?
In order to determine if a “functional” yogurt could impact several markers of metabolic syndrome, Korean researchers first had to create this super yogurt. To do so, they made a basic yogurt with Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidolphilus and Bifidobacterium infantis and added:
- Fibersol-2 (reduces cholesterol)
- FK-23 (reduces blood pressure)
- Pine tree leaf extract (reduces cholesterol)
- Peptigen IF-3090 (regulates body weight)
- Gamma-amino-butryric acid (GABA; reduces blood pressure)
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA; promotes weight loss)
- YQ-2 (reduces cholesterol)
Once they created the yogurt, researchers recruited 101 volunteers to take part in the study. They divided them into two groups. The first group was given the basic yogurt while the other group received the functional yogurt. Both groups ate two containers of yogurt a day for eight weeks.
Participants were asked to restrain from eating any fermented milk products during the study period. They were also asked to keep a daily journal listing eating habits, yogurt consumption, exercise, bowel changes and medications being taken.
Additionally, researchers noted several physical and biophysical markers at the beginning and end of the study period. These included:
- Waist circumference
- Blood pressure
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
- HbA1c (to determine amount of sugar in the blood)
At the end of the eight weeks, researchers found that people eating the functional yogurt had greater weight loss and reduced BMI compared to those eating the regular yogurt. Additionally, the functional group enjoyed a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol as compared to the regular group.
There was no significant difference between the two groups when it came to waist circumference, blood pressure, total or HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, or glucose or HbA1c levels.
Based on these results, researchers concluded that this particular blend of yogurt clearly helped to reduce weight, BMI and LDL cholesterol. While probiotics have been found to lower cholesterol in previous studies, researchers concluded that this benefit might have been enhanced by the addition of fibersol-3, pine tree leaf and YQ-2. However, what is unclear is if one of these nutrients was the real hero or if it was the combined effects of all three that gave the yogurt the cholesterol-lowering boost.
On the weight loss/BMI front, researchers pointed to the likely inclusion of the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), as well as the pine tree leaf extract.
Given the many layers to the study and the functional yogurt itself, researchers suggest that further work should be done on the individual nutrients to help pinpoint the actual cause of the weight loss, decreased BMI and lower LDL cholesterol.
Start With the Basics
While the study did show some good results, I think the authors may have muddied the waters by including so many nutrients. Therefore, in an effort to gather some actionable advice from this study, we recommend doing some personal research.
Start with a reduced-fat yogurt. If you are interested in lowering your cholesterol, you can supplement with pine tree leaf extract (sometimes sold as pine needle extract). Use as directed.
If weight loss is your goal, supplement your yogurt with 3,000 to 3,500 mg of CLA a day. Much of the research on CLA has been done using a form of conjugated linoleic acid called Tonalin. Therefore, you may want to choose a product that contains this form.
 Lye, HS, et al. The improvement of hypertension by probiotics: effects on cholesterol, diabetes, rennin, and phytoestrogens. Int J Mol Sci. 2009;10:3,755-75.
 Chang, BJ, et al. Effect of functional yogurt NY-YP901 in improving the trait of metabolic syndrome. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011:65:1,250-5.
 Liong, MT. Probiotics: a critical review of their potential role as antihypertensives, immune modulators, hypocholesterolemics, and perimenopausal treatments. Nutr Rev. 2007;65:316-28.
 Blankson, H, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat mass in overweight and obese humans. J Nutr. 2000;130:2,943-8.
 Jeon, JR and Kim, JY. Effects of pine needle extract on differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes and obesity in high-fat diet fed rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2,996;29:2,111-5.