Don’t skip the dairy part. There’s another reason why you should add yogurt to your grocery cart.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in America. And while smoking is an obvious culprit, up to 20 percent of people with lung cancer have never touched a cigarette, according to Brian Mitzman, MD, a thoracic surgeon at NYU Winthrop Hospital and assistant professor at NYU Langone Health.
People who already avoid smoking and still have a high risk of developing lung cancer may want to stop and shop in the dairy department. According to a study, there is a link between a high intake of yogurt and fiber and a reduced risk of lung cancer.
What the study says
Researchers published a report in JAMA Oncology based on an analysis of ten studies from the United States, Europe and Asia involving a total of approximately 1.4 million people. They examined 18,822 lung cancer cases and adjusted for lung cancer risk factors, such as smoking. This study is an observational study, in which researchers look afterwards to see if there is a link between a disease and other factors, explains Dr. Mitzman out.
“The results of observational studies are not as accurate as randomized or blinded studies, but they can still give us important information,” he says.
With that in mind, the study suggests that eating yogurt and fiber is linked to a reduction in lung cancer risk. They found that men who ate about three ounces of yogurt a day, and women who ate four, had a 19 percent lower risk of lung cancer.
Those who ate the most fiber were also 17 percent less likely to develop cancer. Interestingly, the research shows that even eating small amounts of both leads to a reduced risk, said Dr. mitzman.
Still, the results of this study show that eating the most fiber and yogurt would lower your chances by 33 percent to 33.5 people in 100,000, or a 0.03 percent risk, according to Dr. mitzman. “Overall, it’s not a huge change,” says Dr. mitzman. But even a small change can be reason enough to add yogurt to your shopping cart.
What does previous research show?
Not much research has been done on yogurt and fiber, in terms of lung cancer. “There have been numerous other observational studies showing a possible association with fiber and improved lung function, and in some cases reduced lung cancer,” says Dr. mitzman. “Unfortunately, there is limited evidence to show a direct link between the two.” In addition, there are even fewer studies on yogurt and lung cancer, and no studies evaluating the combination of yogurt with fiber, he says.
So although the JAMA report is encouraging, it is not final. There’s a lot of interest in studying the gut biome and how it can affect other parts of the body, such as the lungs, so more research is likely to come. If all the buzz about gut bacteria, fiber, and yogurt is making you hungry, get one of the best probiotic yogurts for your health.
How important is it to eat yogurt every day?
It’s certainly possible that eating more fiber and yogurt can have many different health benefits, according to Kevin Sullivan, MD, an attending physician at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute. Yogurt is rich in calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D and many other nutrients.
Keep in mind, though, that the greatest risk of developing lung cancer is in those who currently smoke or have a significant smoking history, says Dr. Sullivan. “If you smoke, the best thing you can do to improve your health is to quit — don’t consume more fiber or yogurt while continuing to smoke,” says Dr. Sullivan.
Adding yogurt to your diet is a bonus, but it shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Researchers still have a long way to go. In the meantime, “Buy a tub of yogurt and eat some more veggies with dinner,” says Dr. Mitzman, “it can’t hurt at all.” (Yogurt is one of the healthiest high-fat foods you should be eating.)