In recent years, numerous studies have been published on the health effects of yogurt and the bacterial cultures used in the production of yogurt. In the United States, these lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) include Lactobacillus and Streptococcus species. The benefits of yogurt and LAB on gastrointestinal health have been investigated in animal models and, occasionally, in human subjects. Some studies using yogurt, individual LAB species, or both showed promising health benefits for certain gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrheal diseases, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, and allergies. Patients with any of these conditions could possibly benefit from the consumption of yogurt. The benefits of yogurt consumption to gastrointestinal function are most likely due to effects mediated through the gut microflora, bowel transit, and enhancement of gastrointestinal innate and adaptive immune responses. Although substantial evidence currently exists to support a beneficial effect of yogurt consumption on gastrointestinal health, there is inconsistency in reported results, which may be due to differences in the strains of LAB used, in routes of administration, or in investigational procedures or to the lack of objective definition of "gut health." Further well-designed, controlled human studies of adequate duration are needed to confirm or extend these findings.
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