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Can Probiotics Really Help Your Health?

By Joyce Hendley, "Can Fermented Foods Really Help Your Health?," November/December 2010

Health benefits of fermented foods.

A Cancer Fighter?

Some fermented-foods advocates believe that probiotics might increase the body’s resistance to the ultimate invaders: cancer cells. Recently, Swedish researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute looked at dietary and cancer data from more than 82,000 Swedish men and women over a nine-year period. They found that those who averaged two or more daily servings of yogurt or fermented-milk products had a 38 percent lower risk of developing bladder cancer when compared with those who never ate those foods. Other studies hint that people who regularly eat yogurt might have a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer.

When it comes to fermented vegetables, however, data from Asian studies add a note of caution. A Chinese study found that the more fermented foods men ate daily—particularly pickled vegetables—the higher their risks of developing prostate cancer; Korean research has found links between heavy kimchi consumption and increased risk of stomach cancers. Although epidemiologic studies like these aren’t designed to show a clear cause or effect, researchers note that the nitrates naturally occurring in the vegetables—and the high amounts of salt added to pickle them—are both known to increase stomach cancer risk.



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