Metabolic disease is a modern, umbrella term for a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Those effected are at a significantly greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other blood vessel illnesses. According to the NHS, one in four Brits are known to have metabolic disease (in one form or another) and while we all know that leading a healthier lifestyle reduces the risk, you will be pleased to know that ferments also help along the way!
Over the past 20 years, there has been a significant number of publications showing the benefits that lactic acid bacteria (LAB) has on fat in the body. LAB is the bacteria synthesised during the fermentation process.
One of the most recent research papers studied the effects of drinking Kefir in a model of metabolic disease. Compared to the control group, the Kefir group showed a significant reduction in abdominal fat and reduced levels of fat in the liver and blood. Furthermore, this study showed reduced insulin resistance in the Kefir group, which may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes (1). A number of other studies have investigated the effects of Kefir on cholesterol levels and there is significant amounts of evidence to show that the probiotic cultures in Kefir have cholesterol-lowering abilities (2, 3). Whilst some studies investigate Kefir (as we know it), other investigations have been performed at the molecular level whereby individual strains of LAB have been isolated. These experiments too have shown significant cholesterol lowering effects (4).
Whilst research is ongoing into how LAB works, it has been suggested that it may act to increase secretions in the gut, inhibit cholesterol absorption and play a role in fat metabolism. The most recent publication from the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research journal showed that LAB, isolated from Kefir had anti-obesity effects by the direct reduction of cholesterol after a high-fat diet (5)…
(1) Rossa DD et al (2016) Kefir reduces insulin resistance and inflammatory cytokine expression in an animal model of metabolic syndrome. Food Funct., 2016 7, 3390-3401.
(2) Huang et al (2013) Lactobacillus plantarum strains as potential probiotic cultures with cholesterol-lowering activity. J Dairy Sci. 2013 May; 96(5): 2746-53.
(3) Xiao JZ et al (2003) Effects of milk products fermented by Bifidobacterium longum on blood lipids in rats and healthy adult male volunteers. J Dairy Sci. 2003 86(7) 2452-2461.
(4) Wang et al (2009) Effects of Lactobacillus plantarum MA2 isolated from Tibet kefir on lipid metabolism and intestinal microflora of rats fed on high-cholesterol diet. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Aug; 84(2) 341-7.
(5) Dong-Hyeon K et al (2017) Dual function of Lactobacillus kefiri DH5 in preventing high-fat-diet-induced obesity: direct reduction of cholesterol and upregulation of PPAR-alpha in adipose tissue. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2017 (61) 11 1700252.