The results of a study published in The Journal of Nutrition linked dietary consumption of live microbes with a variety of measures associated with improved health outcomes.

Modern food production and processing along with improved hygiene and sanitation has reduced the number of live microbes consumed.  Data also show that western diets can negatively impact the diversity and composition of the colonic microbiota. Although consuming foods with an abundance of live dietary microbes has been hypothesized to contribute to human health, direct evidence is lacking.

To determine whether the consumption of live microbes could potentially confer health benefits, Sanders (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics) and colleagues compared live microbe consumption with physiological parameters. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; 2001-2008), a nationally representative survey conducted to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans, were included in this study. Foods with live microbial content and fermented foods were grouped into categories as low, medium, and high.  Physiological parameters included blood pressure, anthropometric measures, blood lipids, blood glucose, insulin, and biomarkers of inflammation.

Consumption of foods with medium to high amounts of live microbes was associated with lower blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, blood glucose, insulin triglyceride levels, C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation), and higher HDL cholesterol levels. These associations were favorable to population health. For fermented food consumption, similar findings were observed, although the effects on blood glucose and insulin were less clear.

In general, study results provide additional evidence that consumption of foods with high microbial concentrations is associated with better health outcomes.  These findings provide preliminary evidence to support the hypothesis that foods containing live microbes may provide health benefits and may lead to future recommendations that live microbes are part of healthy eating patterns.


Hill C, Tancredi DJ, Cifelli CJ, Slavin JL, Gahche J, Marco ML, Hutkins R, Fulgoni III VL, Merenstein D, Sanders ME. Positive Health Outcomes Associated with Live Microbe Intake from Foods, Including Fermented Foods, assessed using the NHANES Database. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 4, April 2023, Pages 1143-1149,

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