Fermented foods and gastrointestinal health: underlying mechanisms

Arghya Mukherjee, Samuel Breselge, Eirini Dimidi, Maria L. Marco, Paul D. Cotter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Although fermentation probably originally developed as a means of preserving food substrates, many fermented foods (FFs), and components therein, are thought to have a beneficial effect on various aspects of human health, and gastrointestinal health in particular. It is important that any such perceived benefits are underpinned by rigorous scientific research to understand the associated mechanisms of action. Here, we review in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo studies that have provided insights into the ways in which the specific food components, including FF microorganisms and a variety of bioactives, can contribute to health-promoting activities. More specifically, we draw on representative examples of FFs to discuss the mechanisms through which functional components are produced or enriched during fermentation (such as bioactive peptides and exopolysaccharides), potentially toxic or harmful compounds (such as phytic acid, mycotoxins and lactose) are removed from the food substrate, and how the introduction of fermentation-associated live or dead microorganisms, or components thereof, to the gut can convey health benefits. These studies, combined with a deeper understanding of the microbial composition of a wider variety of modern and traditional FFs, can facilitate the future optimization of FFs, and associated microorganisms, to retain and maximize beneficial effects in the gut.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2023


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