The first time fermented milk (yogurt) was consumed is not known. Fermented milk foods are the predecessors of cheese, which originated about the time dairy animals were first domesticated, 8-10,000 b.c. (1).
Belief in the healthful aspects of yogurt for human beings has been noted in many civilizations for centuries. Elie (Ilya Ilitch) Metchnikoff was the director of the Pasteur Institute. He received the Nobel prize in medicine and physiology in 1908 for his classic work on phagocytes and phagocytosis, which formed a basis for the theory of immunity. He is credited for his studies on consumption of fermented milk and longevity. Metchnikoff was not the first to promote curdled milk such as yogurt. Hippocrates, in the 4th century b.c., in his ''Application of Hygenic and Dietary Measures,'' spoke highly of yogurt (2). Leben, a fermented milk of the Middle East, is mentioned in the Book of Job (l0:10), 1520 years before the birth of Christ (2).
In India, people have consumed yogurt, called dahi, for thousands of years. A significant amount of milk produced in India is consumed as yogurt. A few years ago, lassi, a sugared yogurt drink, was declared the state drink for the parliament in Punjab, a province in northern India. In different countries, fermented milk is called by different names. However, the word ''yogurt'' is gaining popularity. In the developing countries, yogurt is an indigenous milk product. In the peri-urban and rural areas of Delhi, India, fresh raw milk is available from small local dairy farms with 40-50 buffaloes (3). Most households make their own yogurt from morning and evening milk. Raw milk is boiled and allowed to cool. When it feels warm to the touch, it is inoculated from the previous day's fermentation. Some samples from these household fermentations have been examined in the author's laboratory. They contained mesophilic lactococci including diacetyl producers, thermophilic cocci, thermophilic lactobacilli, yeast, and some coliforms.
In the past 30 years, annual per capita yogurt consumption in the United States has grown six-fold to 2.31 kg (Table 1) (4). The consumption of fermented milk products (yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk) in the United States is very low compared to other developed countries (Table 2) (5). Actual consumption of yogurt and related products in the United States is a bit higher than reported. Many ethnic groups that consume large quantities of plain yogurt ferment their own. There are a number of adults who do not eat yogurt because they do not tolerate lactose in milk. Incidence of lactose intolerance in
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