Does fermented food consumption lower social anxiety?

Fermented foods are not included in the recently revised ISAPP definition of probiotics, since the bacteria they contain are uncharacterized. But scientists are nevertheless studying how these foods may affect health, including brain function.

This blog post covers a correlational study on fermented food consumption and social anxiety. The study found that young adults who consumed more fermented foods and fruits/vegetables, and those who engaged more frequently in exercise, had lower levels of social anxiety. Young adults who already expressed higher levels of neuroticism had less social anxiety when they consumed fermented foods.

Despite the significant limitations of this study — chiefly, that causality cannot be inferred — its findings warrant further investigation. With further data, low-risk interventions such as fermented food consumption could be used to complement existing clinical strategies for lowering anxiety.


Hilimire MR, et al. (2015) Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety: An interaction model. Psychiatry Research doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.04.023

Mary Ellen Sanders
Mary Ellen Sanders
Mary Ellen Sanders is a consultant in the area of probiotic microbiology, with special expertise on paths to scientific substantiation of probiotic product label claims. Dr. Sanders served as the founding president of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) and is currently the organization’s Director of Scientific Affairs/ Executive Officer. This international, non-profit association of academic and industrial scientists is dedicated to advancing the science of probiotics and prebiotics ( Through numerous written, oral and video pieces, including a website,, she strives to provide objective, evidence-based information on probiotics for consumers and professionals. Key activities include: Panels to determine GRAS status of probiotic strains ; member of the American Gastroenterological Association Scientific Advisory Board for AGA Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education ; World Gastroenterology Organisation Committee preparing practice guidelines for the use of probiotics and prebiotics for GI indications (2008, 2011, 2014) ; working group convened by the FAO/WHO that developed guidelines for probiotics (2002).