From Fermented Foods to Human Health
Arising from a natural microbiological process, fermented foods have been consumed by humans for over 6000 years. Although the original aim of fermentation was to prolong the shelf life of foods, the addition of new organoleptic properties very quickly contributed to the explosion in the range of fermented foods. A health-related dimension now supplements their potential.
Fermentation allows us to produce a great variety of foods. According to the latest estimates, fermented foods account for up to one-third of our diet. Thanks to the commissioning of the first experimental cheese dairy on its Liebefeld site in 1901, Agroscope can boast more than a century of expertise leading to the establishment of a bacteria collection of more than 13 000 isolates, the majority of them lactic bacteria. In 1907, Nobel prizewinner Elie Metchnikoff from the Pasteur Institute in Paris hypothesised that lactic bacteria could regulate bacterial composition of the gut, thereby prolonging human life. Although these studies laid the foundation for probiotics research, scientists at that time did not yet have sufficiently powerful analytical tools to objectively evaluate the complexity of interactions between foods, the gut microbiota and the human metabolism. Studies documenting the health benefits of fermented foods - digestion and absorption of nutrients, vitamin synthesis, regulation of the immune system, protection against the proliferation of pathogens, regulation of intestinal flora - were supported by only a small number of health claims.