summary: Fermented foods such as kimchi and kombucha contain amino acids that are essential for the production of serotonin and consuming these foods can have a positive effect on mood and reduce stress. Researchers say that sugar and vegetable-based products are best for gut and brain health.

source: Society for Microbiology

Many countries around the world have their own fermented foods ingrained in culture and diet. It can’t be a coincidence that this happened over and over again. It seems logical that fermented foods offer more than just a means of preservation.

Diet can greatly affect your mental health and previous research has shown that certain foods are particularly good at positively affecting your brain.

Fermented foods are a source of tryptophan, an amino acid essential for the production of serotonin, a messenger in the brain that affects many brain functions, including mood.

Foods may also contain other brain messengers (known as neurotransmitters) in their raw form.

It is not surprising, then, that research has shown that eating fermented foods may have different long- and short-term effects on brain function, such as reducing stress.

But which foods have the biggest impact on brain health?

Researchers at APC Microbiome, University College Cork, and Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority of Ireland) in Moorepark, Cork, Ireland are currently working on a large study to finally answer this question. Ramya Balasubramanian and the team at APC compared sequence data from more than 200 foods from around the world, looking for a variety of metabolites known to be beneficial to brain health.

The study is still in its early stages, but the researchers were already surprised by the initial results.

Ramya explains, “I was expecting only a few fermented foods to come out, but out of the 200 fermented foods, almost all of them showed the ability to exert some kind of potential to improve gut and brain health.”

More research is needed to understand which groups of fermented foods have the greatest impact on the human brain, but the results emerge an unexpected victor.

This shows kimchi
Fermented foods are a source of tryptophan, an amino acid essential for the production of serotonin, a messenger in the brain that affects many brain functions, including mood. The image is in the public domain

“Sugar-based and fermented plant-based products are like winning the lottery when it comes to gut and brain health,” Rami explains.

“For all that we see on sugar-based products being demonized, fermented sugar takes a raw sugar substrate, and turns 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 metabolic check, the sugar is used by the microbial community that’s in the food, and they’re converted into these beautiful metabolites that are ready to be the cherry — which we pick for further studies.”

These additional studies are the next step for Ramiah. She plans to put fermented foods first through rigorous testing using an artificial colon and various animal models to see how these metabolites affect the brain.

Rami hopes the public can take advantage of these initial findings and consider including fermented foods in their diet as a natural way to support their mental health and general well-being.

About this diet and brain health research news

author: Claire Baker
source: Society for Microbiology
communication: Claire Baker – Society for Microbiology
picture: The image is in the public domain

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