Postbiotics, Fermented Foods, and Health

Published on: Jun 25 2020

The boom in microbiome research in recent years has led to a greater understanding of how we interact with the microbes that live in the human body. It has also brought a multitude of different ways to manipulate the microbiome to improve health along with it, including probiotics, prebiotics, and now the postbiotics.

Probiotics are beneficial microbes, officially defined by the World Health Organization as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.

Prebiotics are the food that feeds beneficial microbes, or “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” as defined by ISAPP.

Kombucha bubblesFermented foods have long been associated with health benefits, and phrase postbiotics reflects the next level of understanding in what may give fermented foods their beneficial properties.

The term postbiotics, although lacking a formal definition, is a term scientists have developed to describe the metabolites and compounds produced by microbes found in fermented foods and beverages that may have a health benefit. Early research is showing potential links to reducing inflammation, improving immunity, or strengthening gut barrier function.

A recent article published in Today’s Dietitian summarizes the developing science of postbiotics. Mindy Hermann, MBA, RDN provides a summary of the most up-to-date research on postbiotics.

The article includes expert perspectives of microbiome and fermented food researchers, including Maria Marco, PhD, Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of California-Davis and scientific advisor to the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute, and Hannah Holscher, PhD, RD, Assistant Professor of Nutrition in the Nutrition and Human Microbiome Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Read the full article on Today’s Dietitian to learn:

  • The relationship between fermentation and postbiotics
  • How postbiotics might work in the digestive tract
  • How microbes used to produce fermented foods differ from probiotics
  • Potential advantages of postbiotics over probiotics in food and beverage applications
  • How postbiotics could be used to help food be more tolerable to those with sensitive digestive tract

An excerpt from the article below reveals how fermented foods may be delivering health benefits via postbiotics.

Sourdough bread appears to deliver health benefits, in part, from the impact of its fermentation process on the carbohydrate content of bread. Fermentation lowers the content of FODMAPs because the sourdough yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Kluyveromyces marxianus degrade oligosaccharides during the sourdough process. This results in a sourdough bread that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and sensitivities to FODMAPs can more easily tolerate.

The high temperature for baking sourdough bread typically kills the live microorganisms, but metabolites and cell fractions remain intact. In comparison, fermented foods that aren’t processed after fermentation deliver both postbiotics and the live microorganisms that produce the postbiotics.

Learn more about the science of digestive health:

Fermented Foods: Stacking Up the Science (webinar)

Digestive Health Resources – A Toolbox for Probiotics, Fermented Foods, Diet Trends, the Gut-Brain Axis, and More

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