Sauerkraut: super food, or health risk?
Posted on Tue, 21 Apr 15
Fermented foods such as Sauerkraut are being increasingly cited as super foods in pop nutrition, but a new scientific review of Sauerkraut tells a very different story.
Sauerkraut is a form of preserved cabbage that is produced by fermentation. Its use as a food can be traced back to the 4th century BC and in Germany where it remains popular, approximately 200 000 tons of cabbage are processed into sauerkraut annually.
Increasing interest in fermented foods has resulted in a number of health claims appearing in popular books and websites with claims that they can improve symptoms such as “depression, panic attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or any other symptom (1).”
So to see if there is anything to support reported health benefits a research team conducted an in-depth analysis of research dating back almost 100-years (2).
They found 139 studies relevant to human health, but very little actual human research (4 clinical studies, 3 case reports). The studies revealed possible health benefits but also possible risks. Some research found sauerkraut induced inflammation locally and may result in diarrhea or allergic reactions because of its high histamine content. While other studies suggested anticarcinogenic effects, for example.
Perhaps surprising to fermented food fans was a lack of evidence for any clear probiotic or digestive health effects. There is presently no strong evidence that sauerkraut contains viable probiotics or influences human gut bacteria or digestive health. The authors cite anecdotal experience and call for more research.
“According to personal clinical experience, regular intake of small doses of sauerkraut—7 g to 10 g (or about 1 tablespoon) daily—has a very good effect on many patients’ gastrointestinal tract. They report better digestion and less constipation” commented the authors. And “allergic problems have not been observed. However, clinical studies are needed to support this anecdotal experience.”
Sauerkraut may fit the description of a functional or super food – it is rich in lactic acid, vitamins, phytonutrients, and minerals - however, “unwanted effects such as intolerance reactions must be considered when dealing with sauerkraut as a functional food” concludes the review.
- Mercola. Interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. May 12, 2012. Accessed online: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/12/dr-campbell-mcbride-on-gaps.aspx
- Raak C, Ostermann T, Boehm K, Molsberger F. Regular consumption of sauerkraut and its effect on human health: a bibliometric analysis. Glob Adv Health Med. 2014 Nov;3(6):12-8. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2014.038.
Tags: Fermented Foods, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Probiotics