Can Probiotics Really Help Your Health?

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., "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.

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner