Young adults who consumed more fermented food felt less socially anxious than those who did not, according to study findings in Psychiatry Research.
Matthew R. Hilimire, PhD, of the College of William and Mary, and colleagues administered surveys to 710 students during the fall 2014 semester to investigate associations between fermented food consumption and social anxiety. Students were asked if they had consumed fermented foods within the last 30 days, how frequently they exercised and how often they consumed fruits and vegetables on average.
Matthew R. Hilimire
Analyses showed that students who consumed more fermented foods had lower rates of social anxiety. This association was stronger among students high in neuroticism, according to researchers.
When controlling for demographics, consumption of healthy foods and exercise frequency, the researchers found that neuroticism, exercise and fermented food consumption were significant and independent predictors of social anxiety.
“It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety,” Hilimire said in a press release. “I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind.”
The researchers plan to conduct an experimental version of the study to potentially make causative connections between fermented food consumption and social anxiety.
“This study shows that young adults who are prone towards anxiety report less social anxiety if they frequently consumed fermented foods with probiotics,” study researcher Jordan DeVylder, MS, MPhil, PhD, of the University of Maryland, said in the release. “These initial results highlight the possibility that social anxiety may be alleviated through low-risk nutritional interventions, although further research is needed to determine whether increasing probiotic consumption directly causes a reduction in social anxiety.” – by Amanda Oldt
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