Eating two or more weekly portions of yoghurt may help to lower the risk of men developing abnormal growths in the colon that usually precede bowel cancer.
According to research published on Wednesday in the online edition of the medical journal Gut, the consumption of yoghurt was seen as a factor in slowing down the development of the abnormal growths or adenomas which precede the development of bowel cancer.
Scientists found there was an association between eating yoghurt and the presence of adenomas likely to develop into cancer.
The findings showed that eating yoghurt was more beneficial for curbing the growths located in the colon than those in the rectum.
For purposes of the study, researchers examined the diets of 32,606 men and 55,743 women who participated in the Nurses Health Study and were also part of the Health Professionals follow up study.
All the study participants had had a lower bowel endoscopy — a procedure that enables a clinician to view the inside of the gut — between 1986 and 2012.
And every four years, they provided detailed information on lifestyle and diet, including how much yoghurt they ate.
During the study period, 5,811 adenomas were observed in the men compared to 8,116 in the women.
The probability of developing the abnormal colon growths among participants who ate two or more servings a week were reduced by 19 percent.
For adenomas in the colon that were seen as highly likely to develop into cancer, the risk reduced even further to 26 percent for those located in the colon.
There was no significant association observed between yoghurt consumption and adenomas in the rectum.
Research carried out in the past has suggested that regular consumption of yoghurt might lower the risk of bowel cancer by modifying the microbiome, or population and types of bacteria found in the gut.
Until this study was done, what the scientists had not observed was the possibility of yoghurt consumption lowering the risk of pre-cancerous growths occurring in the colon.
Scientists did not see the yoghurt influence in the more dangerous growths in men known as jagged or serrated adenomas.
But they had observed a pattern or trend of reduced risk for growths measuring 1 centimetre or more in size, which is considered to be large by medics.
No such associations between yogurt intake and the development of adenomas were evident among the women.
Although the research was based on observations of participants in a lifestyle study, scientists are banking on the large number of people studied as a measure of credibility.
They recommend that further research is necessary to confirm the findings and shed more light on the exact effect of yoghurt on the development of growths that could lead to cancer in the colon.
The team believes that the two bacteria commonly found in live yogurt, namely lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus, may reduce the number of carcinogenic or cancer causing chemicals in the gut.
Scientists also believe that the lower acidity or PH in this section of the gut provides a friendly environment for these bacteria to thrive, hence reducing the probability for adenomas growing there.
Another theory is that yoghurt may contain substances that reduce irritation in the gut.
Researchers suggest that these anti-inflammatory properties may curb the tendency of the gut to develop perforations or tiny leaks, since adenomas are associated with the condition.