Fermented foods may play a role in improved mental health and reduced anxiety issues in particular, finds a new study.
Recent research conducted by W&M Psychology Professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell along with University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor Jordan DeVylder, found that young adults who consumed a higher amount of probiotic-rich fermented foods were less likely to express social anxiety symptoms, including those subjects genetically predisposed to neuroticism.
"It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety," Hilimire, assistant professor of psychology said in Medical Xpress. "I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind."
Previous studies have looked at how ‘friendly-bacteria’ probiotic supplements influence anxiety or depression in animal models. But this study was the first to look at non-manipulated food intake and social anxiety. In other words, subjects weren’t asked to add fermented foods or probiotics to their diet; the study looked at just how much they were already consuming and their corresponding levels of anxiety.
"These studies with animal models showed that if you give them certain kinds of bacteria, which we call probiotics – the beneficial microorganisms that help our health, like lactobacilli – these animals tend to be less depressed or less anxious," Hilimire said.
About 700 students responded to the researcher’s questionnaire. "The main finding was that individuals who had consumed more fermented foods had reduced social anxiety but that was qualified by an interaction by neuroticism. What that means is that that relationship was strongest amongst people that were high in neuroticism," Hilimire said.
"The people that benefitted the most from fermented foods were high in neuroticism. And the secondary finding was that more exercise was related to reduced social anxiety, as well."
Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, miso paste, tempeh and kombucha.
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