Koreans love kimchi. This spicy fermented cabbage dish is consumed most days in most homes. Once thought to be less than perfect because of salt and strong spices, the national dish is once again a nutritional star.
The probiotic effect may be powerful chemopreventives.
But first take a look at the anticancer effects of other constituents in kimchi:
- Chinese cabbage: loads of dietary fiber may prevent stomach and colorectal cancers
- Garlic: 33 types of “organosulfur” compounds works against cancer in several known ways, by detoxification, enzyme modulation and DNA adjustments and action against Helicobacter pylori.
- Chili peppers: the heat comes from capsaicin which has been shown to arrest cancers
Researchers in Korea asked whether the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) produced during fermentation could improve immune function and work as a cancer preventive. In Cancer Preventive Potential of Kimchi Lactic Acid Bacteria, Shin-Hye Kwak and colleagues presented findings which appeared in the Journal of Cancer Prevention.
The authors state that LAB in kimchi may
- suppress the activity of carcinogen-activating enzymes
- neutralize carcinogens and pathogenic microbes
- improve gastrointestinal function
- strengthen immunity
- decrease cholesterol
- ameliorate cirrhosis
Which LAB? Analysis shows that in kimchi samples the genus Weissella was predominant at 44.4%. W. koreensis was 27.2% and W. cibaria was 8.7%.
The researchers chose Weissella cibaria and Lactobacillus plantarum to determine their ability to prevent cancer.
W. cibaria was reported to have anticancer activity, immune modulating activity, anti-inflammatory activity, and antioxidant activity. In addition it was shown to have antiviral properties against the avian flu virus. Another interesting angle may be the use of W. cibaria as a producer of ornithine which is credited with antiobesity effects.
Lactobacillus plantarum is more known as it is used in a starter in a wide range of products. Produced in the latter stages of kimchi fermentation, L. plantarum drives the acid content which prevents spoilage by bacteria or fungi. In addition to hanging tough in stomach acids, L. Plantarum suppresses growth and adhesion of pathogens.
Kimchi may be an acquired taste for some. But it’s one worth learning.