Health benefits tied to consuming more live microbes

March 20, 2023 in Gastrointestinal Health, Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

Health benefits tied to consuming more live microbes

Safe live microorganisms are found in a variety of foods we eat every day, from yogurt and other fermented foods (e.g., kefir, kombucha, kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut) to raw fruits and vegetables. Despite the widespread idea that these mixtures of live microbes contribute to health, convincing evidence linking live dietary microbes to health benefits has been lacking.

Now, a new U.S. study provides some of the first real-world evidence that higher consumption of live microbes may promote health.

Related: What to eat to bolster gut health

About the study

A group of scientists led by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) classified over 9,000 individual foods listed in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) into three categories based on their abundance of live microbes, and then used NHANES participants’ reported food intake to quantify the food they ate that contained medium or high levels of microbes.

They then determined how intakes of live “healthy” microbes correlated with various markers of health such as blood pressure and weight.

The findings

Increased consumption of live microbes in the diet was linked with multiple measurements of better health: more favorable blood pressure, better blood glucose and insulin, lower inflammation, as well as lower waist circumference and body mass index.

This established that those who consumed higher quantities of live dietary microbes showed tangible, if modest, health benefits.

The results are consistent with plausible arguments that dietary consumption of live microorganisms in general could benefit health by increasing the diversity of microbes in the gut or by supporting immune function.

In the past century, a reduction in the amount of fermented foods in the diet and increased consumption of processed foods has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of microbes most people consume on a daily basis.

This trend may be reversing, however, since the dietary data used in the study showed that US adults have gradually increased their live microbe consumption over the 18-year study period.

Source: Journal of Nutrition, November 13, 2020 and Journal of Nutrition, July 2022.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.