Fermented Food Linked to Mental Health | The Translational Microbiome Research Forum

"Recent research has investigated the intriguing link between mental health and the activity of the human gut’s microbiome, or the microorganisms that share our body space. These organisms outnumber our own cells by ten to one.

A team led by Eva M. Selhub, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, looked at the influence of fermented food and beverages.

They explain in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology that, “As our knowledge of the human microbiome increases, including its connection to mental health (for example, anxiety and depression), it is becoming increasingly clear that there are untold connections between our resident microbes and many aspects of physiology.”

Our intestine contains about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria that can be roughly divided into health-promoting ones, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, and harmful ones such as Clostridia.

The team examined the history and application of fermentation “as a means to provide palatability, nutritional value, preservative, and medicinal properties.” This is an ancient practice that continues to the present day, they state.

In recent years, researchers have discovered many ways in which consuming fermented products affects our intestinal microbiota. For example, fermentation-enriched bioactive peptides, derived from whey milk protein, may have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce high blood pressure.

Selhub and colleagues put forward the argument that fermented food partly explains the link between traditional dietary practices and positive mental health.

The link could manifest itself directly through gut-to-brain communication, they say, or indirectly through beneficial bodily changes such as improved glycemic control antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, or reduction of intestinal permeability.

A further mechanism of action may be the influence of fermented food on endotoxins called lipopolysaccharide (LPS), large molecules that are found to be particularly important in depression. Lab tests on rodents and human volunteers show that even small increases in LPS levels can trigger depressive symptoms."

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