Nutrition News: Greek Yogurt Is in Schools (But Is It Beneficial?) and Junk Food Does Serious Damage

Greek yogurt heads to the cafeteria, a study questions yogurt health benefits, and five days of junk food messes with metabolism more than you might expect.
  Greek Yogurt Goes to School

They may study English, Latin, Spanish, French or Mandarin in their classrooms, but in the cafeteria, more American school kids will soon be eating Greek — Greek yogurt, that is. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced plans to offer Greek yogurt as a protein-rich alternative to meat in school lunches nationwide beginning this fall. The move follows a 12-state pilot program, which helped the USDA determine that there was sufficient student demand for Greek yogurt. And its higher level of protein than conventional yogurt was enough to earn Greek yogurt a permanent place in the national school lunch program. Robert Post, the senior director of nutrition and regulatory affairs for Greek yogurt maker Chobani, which was involved in the pilot program, says he is thrilled about the nationwide rollout. “The success of the pilot is a testament to the growing popularity of Greek yogurt and USDA’s recognition of the value of Greek yogurt as part of a healthy meal for kids," Post said.

Questioning Yogurt’s Health Benefits

While the importance of the daily consumption of milk products is not in dispute, a new study found that “regular consumption of yogurt was not linked to health-related quality of life," giving no measurable boost to the physical and mental health indicators analyzed. Researchers at Autonomous University of Madrid surveyed more than 4,000 adults over a period of three-and-a-half years. "In comparison with people that did not eat yogurt, those who ate this dairy product regularly did not display any significant improvement in their score on the physical component of quality of life, and although there was a slight improvement mentally, this was not statistically significant," concluded lead author Esther López-García. She noted, however, that further research may yet pinpoint yogurt’s health benefits.

Junk Food Harms Metabolism

How much damage can result from eating junk food for a few days? More than you might think. A small study, just published in the journal Obesity, found that eating an ultra-fatty diet, replete with butter, mac and cheese, mayo-slathered ham-and-cheese sandwiches, and microwavable packaged foods — where 55 percent of the calories came from fat and about 18 percent from saturated fat — for five days wreaked havoc on the metabolism of 12 healthy college-age men. “The normal response to a meal was essentially either blunted or just not there after five days of high-fat feeding,” Matthew W. Hulver, Ph.D., head of Virginia Tech’s Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise department, told Time. The good news is that what these guys ate was probably worse than your basic road food: “A McDonald’s diet isn’t even saturated enough compared to what we fed the people in our study,” Hulver said.

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