A fermented-food diet can reduce inflammation, improve gut health

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In a new study from the Stanford School of Medicine, researchers found that a diet rich in fermented foods enhances the diversity of gut microbes and decreases molecular signs of inflammation.

In the clinical trial, 36 healthy adults were assigned to a 10-week diet that included either fermented or high-fiber foods. The two diets resulted in different effects on the gut microbiome and the immune system.

The team found eating foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi and other fermented vegetables, vegetable brine drinks, and kombucha tea led to an increase in overall microbial diversity, with stronger effects from larger servings.

In addition, four types of immune cells showed less activation in the fermented-food group. The levels of 19 inflammatory proteins measured in blood samples also decreased.

One of these proteins, interleukin 6, has been linked to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and chronic stress.

The team says microbiota-targeted diets can change immune status, providing a promising avenue for decreasing inflammation in healthy adults.

By contrast, none of these 19 inflammatory proteins decreased in participants assigned to a high-fiber diet rich in legumes, seeds, whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits. On average, the diversity of their gut microbes also remained stable.

The team expected high fiber to have a more universally beneficial effect and increase microbiota diversity.

But the data suggest that increased fiber intake alone over a short time period is insufficient to increase microbiota diversity.

A wide body of evidence has demonstrated that diet shapes the gut microbiome, which can affect the immune system and overall health. According to the team, low microbiome diversity has been linked to obesity and diabetes.

The researchers focused on fiber and fermented foods due to previous reports of their potential health benefits.

While high-fiber diets have been linked to lower rates of mortality, the consumption of fermented foods can help with weight maintenance and may decrease the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

If you care about diet and your gut health, please read studies about why you should not drink Diet Coke while eating French fries and findings of this popular weight loss diet may strongly change your gut health.

For more information about nutrition and gut health, please see recent studies about diet alone can strongly improve health in older people and results showing that common gut disease linked to high risk of substance use disorder.

The study is published in Cell. One author of the study is Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D.

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