4 probiotic strains found in kimchi

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock.com / AndromedaGalaxy
© iStock.com / AndromedaGalaxy

Related tags Lactic acid bacteria Bacteria Metabolism

South Korean researchers have isolated four potentially ‘useful’ probiotic strains in traditional Korean fermented food kimchi. 

The researchers isolated three Leuconostoc mesenteroides​ strains and one Lactobacillus plantarum​ strain in fermented cabbage kimchi that could be useful as probiotics. 

A total of 900 lactic acid bacteria strains were isolated from the kimchi samples.

Kimchi - fermented by various lactic acid bacteria after brining – can also be radish-based and mixed with spices such as red pepper, garlic, ginger and onion. 

In this study, published in the journal Food Science & Technology​, it was found Lb. plantarum​ C182 showed significant resistance against low pH levels and 0.3% bile salts. 

All three Leuconostoc​ strains showed “very strong adhesion capacities”​ to HT-29 cells – cells found in the colon epithelium, which line the surface of human small and large intestines of the gastrointestinal tract. 

All four different strains had high beta-galactosidase and beta-glucosidase activities. 

“Considering these results,​ Leu. mesenteroides​ F27 and​ Lb. plantarum​ C182 can be used not only as kimchi starters but also as potential probiotics,”​ wrote the researchers from the Gyeongsang National University and Mokpo National University in South Korea. 

“They might be used as a single organism or a member of multiple strains. In the future, studies including animal tests are needed to evaluate their probiotic potentials.” 

Traditionally kimchi is prepared by natural fermentation, without using starters. 

But more recently lactic acid bacteria have been used as starters to improve kimchi quality, functionality and to extend shelf-life. 

Rise in research, rise in interest 

Last year research in almost 10,000 Korean adults suggested eating more fermented foods like kimchi and beer could significantly reduce risks of eczema​. 

Another study from Korea​ earlier in the year suggested consuming fermented kimchi may alter the composition of bacterial populations in the gut and affect metabolic pathways for obese women. 

Consumer interest in fermented foods as probiotic sources has also been mounting in recent years, as shown by a marked increase in the Google searches for the terms ‘kimchi’ and ‘probiotics’ relative to the total search-volume globally.  

Start-up Rhythm Health has tapped into this interest, using kefir cultures to make lactose-free fermented probiotic drinks and yoghurts. 

Yet Amanda Hamilton, director of nutrition for the company, told us last year many consumers still did not know what ‘fermented foods’ meant. 

“I don’t think it means an awful lot yet. But in the actual consumer health press especially in the UK and over in the States they are talking a lot about it especially about sauerkraut and kimchi and all that kind of stuff.”


Source: LWT - Food Science and Technology

Vol 71, pp. 130–137, doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2016.03.029

“Isolation of lactic acid bacteria with probiotic potentials from kimchi, traditional Korean fermented vegetable”

Authors: K. W. Lee, J. M. Shim, S. K. Park, H. J. Heo, H. J. Kim, K. S. Ham and J. H. Kim

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