Fermented Foods and Calorie Restriction – for Better or for Worse?

canstockphoto11454579To understand better the body microbiome and how to optimize it, recent CR Way expert teleconferences have included discussions about increasing the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the gut. Expert guests Drs. Jenifer Fenton and Rob Knight recommended fermented food over probiotics to improve the gut microbiome.

They both make the point that fermented foods have been part of the world’s cultures for thousands of years. Thus, fermented foods have a safety record, whereas probiotics have appeared only relatively recently.

Dr. Fenton noted the temporary effect of probiotic intake – if you take a probiotic strain (and the probiotic makes it through the harsh digestive process) – then gut microbes are increased just by that strain. When you stop taking it, the effect goes away. (This may not be the case with spore-forming probiotic strains. Become a free Healthy Start member to see this post in the Gastrointestinal forum: B. coagulans – impressive probiotic

Bacteria supplied by fermented foods are vastly different. Eating certain fermented foods, unlike a probiotic, may be more like getting a bacterial implant (See the Gastrointestinal Health forum on LivingTheCRWay.com), which over time may significantly alter the gut microbiome. Part of the reason for this is that the bacterial strains in fermented foods are richly varied and have developed in an environment that is friendly to the ecology of the human body.

In sauerkraut, the lactobacillus strains alone, for example, are richly varied. Consider:

 DNA fingerprinting of lactic acid bacteria in sauerkraut fermentations.

Applied and Environmentl Microbiology. 2007 Dec;73(23):7697-702. Epub 2007 Oct 5.

Plengvidhya V, Breidt F Jr, Lu Z, Fleming HP.

USDA-ARS, Department of Food Science, 322 Schaub Hall, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7624, USA.


Previous studies using traditional biochemical identification methods to study the ecology of commercial sauerkraut fermentations revealed that four species of lactic acid bacteria – Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus plantarum, Pediococcus pentosaceus, and Lactobacillus brevis – were the primary microorganisms in these fermentations. In this study, 686 isolates were collected from four commercial fermentations and analyzed by DNA fingerprinting.

The results indicate that the species of lactic acid bacteria present in sauerkraut fermentations are more diverse than previously reported and include Leuconostoc citreum, Leuconostoc argentinum, Lactobacillus paraplantarum, Lactobacillus coryniformis, and Weissella sp. The newly identified species Leuconostoc fallax was also found. Unexpectedly, only two isolates of P. pentosaceus and 15 isolates of L. brevis were recovered during this study. A better understanding of the microbiota may aid in the development of low-salt fermentations, which may have altered microflora and altered sensory characteristics.



It would be great if the story about fermented foods could stop right here, and we could ride off into the sunset with fermented foods leading us to a great microbiome. Regrettably, more must be considered.

See The Dark Side of Fermented Foods – Cancer

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