Improve Gut Function with Fermented Dairy

Researcher: Dr. Maria Marco, UC Davis Food Science and Technology
Timeline: January 2024 – December 2025

*Project is co-funded 50/50 with National Dairy Council (NDC).

Background: Although plant-based yogurts frequently use the same bacterial species for the fermentation process as dairy yogurts, the nutritive profiles between the two types of products are significantly different. A better understanding of how dairy- and plant-based yogurts affect intestinal responses will lead to improved positioning of dairy foods relative to plant-based alternatives. In this project, researchers will compare the capacity of dairy- and plant-based yogurts to prevent pro-inflammatory cytokine induced damage to intestinal epithelial barrier integrity and begin to identify the compounds in yogurt responsible for barrier protection. Researchers hypothesize that dairy yogurts, and not plant-based yogurts, are able to support intestinal barrier integrity and that this is the result of soluble compounds shared between different dairy-yogurt types.

Industry Benefit: The expected impact of this research will be an improved positioning of dairy yogurt as a health-protecting and health-promoting part of the human diet and the distinction of (dairy) yogurt from plant-based alternatives. The findings can be used for informing consumers about the benefits of dairy yogurt consumption on gut health, and because California is the second largest yogurt-producing state in the U.S., the project could provide a positive economic impact for California dairy farmers.