Your Brain on Sugar - © viandaliving com

Fermented Foods Reveal World Of Health Benefits

Fermented foods are valued by cultures the world over for their mood-boosting and metabolism-stabilizing benefits. Is there a single, unifying reason for their beneficial effects? Researchers are trying to trace the mechanisms by which they work…

Social Drinking - © myfitnesspal.comWhat a shame the bad effects of alcohol give the good
metabolites from fermentation such a run for their money!

Forget for a moment, if you can, the overriding associations most folks have between fermented foods and beverage alcohol. And all the profound effects that universal substance has on human mood physiology. What we’re talking about today is more subtle mechanisms by which fermented foods such as Kimchi, Kombucha, and other foods that use fermentation for self-preservation, work.

Turns out many foods use fermentation to help change sugars into downstream compounds called metabolites which can have major beneficial effects on us.

A simple premise

Researchers checked more than 200 fermented foods for signs of those metabolites. They expected only a few of those to produce the compounds they were looking for. Almost all produced at least some. But the big question was, which foods produced the most?

Sugars and veggies were the clear winners in the fermentation sweepstakes.

Surprising results

Ramya Balasubramanian and her team at APC Microbiome, University College Cork (APC) spearheaded the survey. “I expected only a few fermented foods would show up. But out of 200 fermented foods, almost all of them showed the ability to exert some sort of potential to improve gut and brain health,” Balasubramanian recalls.

“For all that we see on sugar-based products being demonised, fermented sugar takes the raw sugar substrate, and it converts it into a plethora of metabolites that can have a beneficial effect on the host. So even though it has the name ‘sugar’ in it, if you do a final metabolomic screen, the sugar gets used by the microbial community that’s present in the food, and they get converted into these beautiful metabolites that are ready to be cherry picked by us for further studies.”

Many paths to enhanced well being

According to an abstract of the study report: “Fermented foods are a source of tryptophan, an amino acid key to the production of serotonin, a messenger in the brain which influences several aspects of brain function, including mood.

“[These] foods may also contain other brain messengers (known as neurotransmitters) in their raw form. It’s no surprise then that research has shown that eating fermented foods may have various long- and short-term impacts on brain function, such as reducing stress. But which foods have the biggest impact on brain health”

Anxious to get on with further tests

Balasubramanian plans to put her top-ranked fermented foods through rigorous testing using an artificial colon and various animal models to see how fermentation metabolites affect the brain.

But even in this early stage of her exp0lorations, she hopes that the public can utilise these preliminary results. And consider including fermented foods in their diet as a natural way of supporting their mental health and general well-being.

My take

I’m not a chemist or a brain scientists. But I can stretch myself far enough to make a connection between the special metabolites in fermented foods and the mood elevation effects of alcoholic beverages. What a shame the bad effects of alcohol give the good metabolites such a run for their money!

~ Maggie J.