Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Research: The unlikely new medicine... pickled cabbage

Research: The unlikely new medicine... pickled cabbage
New research reveals it may help with allergies, coughs, colds and more

Sauerkraut, blue cheese and pickles hardly sound like the route to wellbeing. But fermented foods - left to age for anything from a few days to weeks before they're eaten - are the new health craze.

It comes from the U.S. of course, where it's become fashionable to ferment vegetables and drink kombucha - a fizzy, fermented tea drunk for centuries in China.

Now the science appears to back it up. Last week Cambridge University researchers reported that regular consumption of fermented low-fat dairy foods, such as yoghurt, fromage frais and cottage cheese, could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 25 per cent over 11 years.

When certain foods are left to ferment, they are 'pre-digested' by good bacteria and yeast found naturally on the surface of the food. These microbes eat the food before you do, breaking down the sugars and starches and making the nutrients easier for the body to absorb.

Some also release lactic acid, a natural preservative, which acidifies the environment in the gut, stimulating the growth of good bacteria. The fermented food effectively becomes a natural probiotic supplement.

Bacteria's role in health has attracted much attention in recent years and experts welcome the new interest in 'living' foods, as fermented food is also known.

'Between 70 and 80 per cent of our immune cells are in the gut,' says Alison Clark, of the British Dietetic Association. 'Fermented foods stimulate bacteria that help with immunity.

'So for someone who suffers with lots of coughs and colds, they could help. We also know that a food that's high in probiotics could help control the symptoms of things such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bloating, and flatulence.'

Respected U.S. food writer Michael Pollan has embraced fermentation, pointing out that in the body, microbes outnumber human cells ten to one.

'Much of public health has been obsessed with bacteria as the enemy,' he says. 'But 99.9 per cent are benign, and a great number of are also in a symbiotic relationship with us. They help us, and we need them.' The proponents of fermented food - 'fermentos' - claim that antibiotics and antibacterial cleansing products have depleted our levels of gut bacteria to the detriment of health.

They recommend a wide variety of fermented foods, including cured olives, meats and cheeses, to boost immunity, fight allergies and even help you lose weight -because they aid digestion, helping you feel full.

But those that seem to make a real difference are rich in Lactobacillus, which release lactic acid during fermentation.

A study in Critical Reviews in Microbiology in 2011 found that lactic acid bacteria can help, among other things, the immune system, protect against diarrhoea (yoghurt and fermented milk may be particularly protective for young children) and stomach ulcers, and may help reduce allergies.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2556298/The-unlikely-new-medicine-pickled-cabbage-New-research-reveals-help-allergies-coughs-colds-more.html#ixzz2t496GsMs 

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