Could Fermented Foods Help Tackle Diabetes Symptoms?

Be right back, off to the shop to buy more kimchi…
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New research is showing that fermented foods can help in the battle against type-2 diabetes.

An increasingly common condition, the number of people living with type-2 diabetes in the UK recently reached five million, for the first time on record.

There are a number of lifestyle treatments offered to patients with the health condition, such as eating a healthier diet, moving their body more, and support with emotional health, combined with more traditional methods such as medication — Metformin — and weight loss surgery.

However, the health experts at the nutrition health science website Zoe have shared interesting new data that suggests that eating fermented foods could be effective in the battle against the disease.

What is fermented food?

Sorry, but where have you been? Jokes aside, fermented food has taken over the wellness world due to its abilities to improve digestion, provide better immunity and increase weight loss, and is expected to grow by $533 million over the next few years.

The word ‘fermentation’ might not sound the most glam, but the gut-healthy probiotics that the process adds to the food can have your skin glowing.
The most popular fermented foods include…

  • Kimchi, a popular Korean side dish that’s made from fermented cabbage and other veggies
  • Miso, a common Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. You can get it in a paste that you can add to Asian soups
  • Kombucha, a fizzy tea made from green or black tea, and often shop-bought versions will incorporate other flavourings, too, like berries
  • Kefir, a mix between milk and yoghurt which is made by adding yeast and kefir grains to milk. The result is a tangy drink that can be added to smoothies and drinks
  • Tempeh, which are fermented soybeans that are kept whole and compressed into a rectangle shape that can then be sliced and added to stir fries and curries. Marinate first for optimum flavour

How can they help fight type-2 diabetes?

The science gurus at Zoe have shared a few studies that back up claims that fermented foods can revolutionise treatments for type-2 diabetes.

The first couple look at animal studies, which, while interesting, don’t provide the whole picture when it comes to human health.

One study from 2006 used rats with diabetes. The scientists fed them either a placebo or fermented Cordyceps sinensis — a fungus popular in traditional Chinese medicine.

The rats that had consumed the fermented fungi had lower blood sugar levels at the end of the study than at the start.

Why is lowering blood sugar important for type-2 diabetics?

Lowering blood sugar levels is critical when dealing with type-2 diabetes. The disease occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes mainly from the food you eat.

The hormone that helps glucose get to your cells to be used for energy is insulin, and with type-2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or doesn’t use it well, which results in it staying in your blood and not reaching your cells.

Another study that looked at the ways in which fermented foods can help regulate and lower blood sugar levels is a human study with 21 people who had pre-diabetes, a condition where you have higher blood sugar levels than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type-2 diabetes.

The study recruited 21 people with the condition and for the first eight weeks, the participants consumed either fresh or fermented kimchi.

After a four-week break, those who had eaten fresh kimchi switched to fermented kimchi, and vice versa. The blood sugar control improved for both groups. However, the improvement was greater after eating fermented kimchi.

So, the science shows that eating fermented foods can definitely be beneficial in reducing blood sugar levels naturally, alongside other treatments recommended by your doctor.

And if I do say so myself, kimchi is bloody delicious.