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Yogurt and Cancer: Can Yogurt Prevent the “Big C”?

The association between diet and the prevention of cancer has been shown in a variety of studies. Could yogurt also prevent cancer?

More and more studies are showing that nutrition may play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Since there are over a million new cancer cases occurring each year, there’s much interest in determining what dietary changes might be most effective in reducing the incidence of this disease. Although the role of such foods as fruits and vegetables is already well publicized, there may be a lesser known association between yogurt and cancer. It appears that yogurt may contain ingredients that are effective in slowing down tumor growth.

Why would there be an association between yogurt and cancer? The answer is thought to lie with the friendly bacteria found in yogurt cultures. Active yogurt cultures can be the source of a variety of strains of bacteria all of which produce a variety of proteins and enzymes. It’s thought that enzymes produced by the bacteria found in yogurt may explain the association between yogurt and cancer prevention.

A study carried out in Milan, Italy looked at five different bacterial strains that might be commonly found in yogurt. The bacterial strains were grown in skim milk and the milk in which the bacteria had been grown was exposed to a human breast cancer cell line in culture. All of the milk samples appeared to reduce the growth of the tumor cells. Interestingly, the effect couldn’t be attributed directly to the presence of the bacteria but appeared to be due to compounds produced by the bacteria during fermentation of the milk. It seems possible that the association between yogurt and cancer stems from proteins or other compounds produced by the friendly bacteria found in active yogurt cultures.

Although it’s still unclear as to how the compounds produced by friendly bacteria found in fermented milk products such as yogurt are exerting their anti-tumor effect, it’s thought the products produced by these bacteria may positively influence the immune system, making it harder for cancer cells to survive.

While research is still in the early stages on the role of yogurt and cancer prevention, if chosen well, yogurt can be an inexpensive and healthy food that has a variety of health benefits. It’s rich in calcium and protein and is an excellent substitute for higher calorie dessert treats. Even though it’s premature to recommend yogurt for the prevention of cancer, the fact that it’s safe, inexpensive, and healthy, makes it an excellent dietary choice. Could it also turn out to be a cheap insurance policy against cancer? Hopefully, further research will clarify the association between yogurt and cancer.

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