UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Fermented Food Consumption Associated with Changes in the Gut Microbiome

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San Diego, Calif., Mar. 17, 2020 — Recent years have shown a surge in public interest on how consuming fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha impact health. Research has shown that lifestyle factors, such as diet, can influence health and wellbeing, as well as the gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms residing in the gut. The gut microbiome is essential not only for the digestion and absorption of nutrients but also has an impact on overall health. However, until now, no study has specifically examined the gut microbiome of a large cohort during the consumption of fermented foods.

In a paper published on March 17th in mSystems, researchers at the University of California San Diego in partnership with Danone Nutricia Research have found that the gut microbiome of people who regularly consume fermented foods is associated with certain microbes derived directly from these foods, and their microbiomes are subtly yet significantly different from the gut microbiome of those not eating fermented food.

The team moreover highlighted that people who consume fermented foods have a gut microbiome enriched in conjugated linoleic acid, which is thought to be beneficial for gut health and is often taken as a nutritional supplement.

The study used three types of experimental methods to explore the relationship between fermented food consumption and the gut microbiome of 6,811 volunteers. “These volunteers contributed fecal samples through the American Gut Project, an extensive collection comprised of samples from tens of thousands of citizen scientists,” explains Bryn Taylor, the lead author on the paper, “This work was done in close collaboration with scientists from Danone (or Dannon, as it is more commonly known in the US), who among many other things were able to share their expertise on fermented food-derived microbes.”

Researchers were intrigued to find that the consumption of fermented plants (pickled vegetables, sauerkraut …), and more broadly fermented foods (including fermented dairy products), is associated with a mild yet significant microbiome variation in healthy individuals. According to Muriel Derrien, a co-author and Research Scientist at Danone Nutricia Research, “these results are encouraging and are a first step to motivate further studies to explore how specific fermented foods can impact the microbiome and overall health across populations”. Patrick Veiga, Director of Health and Microbiome Science for Danone Nutricia Research, added that “these results may be useful to support future innovation by designing fermented products that can impact the microbiome and gut health”.

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