Yogurt in its vegan and non-vegan forms is a questionable food choice for many different reasons.
Yogurt in its non-vegan form contains many non-ethical ingredients and has non-ethical farming methods. Cows used in the production of yogurt are often farmed using methods and practices that are detrimental to their freedom and health. This includes being fed GMO grains in indoor enclosures rather than eating grass in outdoor pastures (1). As well as harmful conditions for the cows that produce the main ingredients (milk), ingredients commonly added to yogurt are often also produced from animal remains. This includes gelatin (a thickener from animal bones), calcium supplementation additives like tricalcium phosphate from bone ash, and food dyes like carmine from ground beetles (2). This means that most mainstream yogurt brands contain more than just one non-vegan ingredient!
However, even vegan yogurts or similar products (many vegan processed sweet treats) may contain other harmful ingredients. These include sugar, aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, and modified corn starch (2). These are toxic and are linked to increased risk of obesity, disease, and disbalance in the body. Furthermore, the processing of yogurt often involves the use of a chemical defoamer. This is dimethylpolysilxane which is very toxic especially when preserved with formaldehyde (1). For this reason, most yogurt products should not be marketed as health foods, although they are!
I find it debatable and questionable whether probiotics in yogurt in the form of ‘added bacteria’ or ‘live cultures’ are beneficial for the body, as the body has its own natural biochemical balance that can be easily disturbed. It has been shown that frequent yogurt consumption may impact gut balance and the nervous system. The former has been shown to increase bloating and gas, whilst the latter has been shown to increase the risk of headaches (3). Probiotics may do this by increasing the toxicity in the body. Probiotics may produce harmful substances and increase the risk of infections (4). This means that they lower the immune system. In opposition to this, it has been found that “higher fiber intake was correlated with more lush microbiomes — and stronger responses to immunotherapy” (5). Thus, high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables may be much better for the immune system than yogurt.
There is other evidence that synthetic probiotics may be detrimental to the immune system. “Previous studies have found a link between disruption to gut microbes and obesity, allergies and inflammation” (6). This suggests that any gut imbalance increases the risk of weight gain, metabolic imbalance, a lowered immune system, and increases inflammation. Certain added bacteria in specific can increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
The negative impact on A. muciniphila was associated with the expression of lipid metabolism, inflammatory markers in adipose tissue, and different parameters like increased blood glucose, insulin resistance, and plasma triglycerides (7, 8)
This common probiotic could have particularly detrimental effects, but further evidence could suggest that the other ones do also!
(1) Organicconsumers.org. 2014. You Won’t Believe What’s in Your Yogurt – and It’s Not on the Label!. [online] Available at: <https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/you-wont-believe-whats-your-yogurt-and-its-not-label> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(2) Fitness Together. 2011. The Hidden Dangers of Yogurt. [online] Available at: <https://fitnesstogether.com/eastbay/blog/the-hidden-dangers-of-yogurt> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(3) Honeycutt, L., 2019. The Negative Side Effects of Probiotic Yogurt. [online] LIVESTRONG.COM. Available at: <https://www.livestrong.com/article/412779-the-negative-side-effects-of-probiotic-yogurt/> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(4) NIH. 2021. Probiotics: What You Need To Know. [online] Available at: <https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(5) Keshavan, M., 2019. Probiotics, touted as good for the gut, may be trouble for immune system. [online] STAT. Available at: <https://www.statnews.com/2019/04/02/probiotics-are-touted-as-good-for-the-gut-they-may-be-trouble-for-the-immune-system/> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(6) George, A., 2018. Probiotics are mostly useless and can actually hurt you. [online] New Scientist. Available at: <https://www.newscientist.com/article/2178860-probiotics-are-mostly-useless-and-can-actually-hurt-you/> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(7) El Hage, R., Hernandez-Sanabria, E. and Van de Wiele, T., 2017. Emerging Trends in “Smart Probiotics”: Functional Consideration for the Development of Novel Health and Industrial Applications. Front. Microbiol., [online] Available at: <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01889/full> [Accessed 27 September 2021].
(8) Schneeberger, M., Everard, A., Gómez-Valadés, A. G., Matamoros, S., Ramírez, S., Delzenne, N. M., et al. (2015). Akkermansia muciniphila inversely correlates with the onset of inflammation, altered adipose tissue metabolism and metabolic disorders during obesity in mice. Sci. Rep. 5:16643. doi: 10.1038/srep16643