Consumption of Fermented Foods and Cognitive Function in Children
Lora J. Kasselman1, Aaron Pinkhasov2, Irving Gomolin3, Allison B. Reiss1, 3. 1Biomedical Research, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, New York, United States, 2Behavioral Health, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, New York, United States, 3Department of Medicine, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, New York, United States
Purpose of Study Fermented foods such as yogurt, Kombucha, and kimchi contain multiple species of probiotic organisms such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. To date, little research has been done to look at the association between the consumption of fermented foods and cognitive function. We used publicly available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine if there is a relationship between the consumption of fermented foods and performance on cognitive subtests in children.
Methods Used Data from NHANES III was imported into SAS. Files containing consumption behavior were merged with files containing cognitive function data and demographics for participants < 18 years old. Participants were grouped based on whether they reported eating probiotic-containing fermented foods such as: yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, and buttermilk. Outcome variables were subtests from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) and Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised (WRAT-R). Data were analyzed using SAS PROC SURVEYREG to account for sampling strata and weights in SAS version 9.4.
Summary of Results Overall, the consumption of fermented foods was marginally associated with higher scores on the block design subtest (p=0.05) but after adjustment for potential confounders, this increase was no longer statistically significant (p=0.15). Stratification by race/ethnicity revealed that non-Hispanic black children who reported eating fermented foods had statistically significant gains in the block design subtest score (p=0.01) and Mexican-American children who consumed probiotics had higher average math raw scores (p<0.001).
Conclusions Our study demonstrates that consumption of fermented foods may be associated with better performance on cognitive subtests in children. This possible benefit of probiotic consumption may be particularly important in certain populations, but a major limitation of these data is that very few people in NHANES III reported consuming fermented foods. Future research is necessary to identify areas for beneficial nutritional intervention, including policy implementation, as well as understanding the underlying mechanism driving fermented food-derived increased cognitive function.
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