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Eating kimchi helps shed belly fat and improves overall health

The intriguing relationship between kimchi consumption, health, and obesity reduction has recently come to light in a study published in the BMJ Open.

This comprehensive research delves into the effects of this beloved Korean staple on human health, particularly concerning obesity risks.

Kimchi: A culinary staple with health benefits

Kimchi, a cornerstone of Korean cuisine, is a fermented dish primarily made from cabbage and radish. It’s crafted by fermenting these vegetables with a variety of seasonings like onion, garlic, and fish sauce.

Not only is it low in calories, but it’s also a rich source of dietary fiber, beneficial lactic acid bacteria, vitamins, and polyphenols.

Past experimental studies have highlighted the anti-obesity properties of Lactobacillus brevis and L. plantarum, strains of bacteria found in kimchi.

Building on this, researchers sought to understand if regular kimchi consumption could reduce the risk of overall and abdominal obesity, the latter being particularly detrimental to health.

Studying kimchi and obesity

The study utilized data from 115,726 individuals (36,756 men and 78,970 women with an average age of 51) participating in the Health Examinees (HEXA) study.

HEXA, part of the larger Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study, focuses on identifying environmental and genetic risk factors for common conditions in Korean adults over 40.

Participants’ dietary intake was assessed using a 106-item food frequency questionnaire. This tool helped researchers understand the frequency of kimchi consumption among participants, ranging from never to up to three times a day.

The study considered various types of kimchi, including cabbage (baechu) and radish (kkakdugi) kimchi, watery versions like nabak and dongchimi, and other varieties such as mustard greens kimchi.

Serving sizes varied, with 50 g for baechu or kkakdugi and 95 g for nabak or dongchimi.

What the research team learned

Researchers observed a J-shaped curve in the relationship between kimchi consumption and obesity. Notably, those consuming more than five servings daily tended to have higher weights, waist sizes, and obesity rates.

These individuals were also more likely to have lower education levels, lower incomes, and a propensity for alcohol consumption.

The study found that consuming up to three servings of kimchi daily was linked to an 11% lower prevalence of obesity compared to those who ate less than one serving.

Specifically, in men, three or more servings of baechu kimchi daily correlated with a 10% decrease in overall and abdominal obesity rates.

In women, two to three servings of the same variety were associated with an 8% reduction in obesity, while one to two servings per day corresponded with a 6% decrease in abdominal obesity.

Interestingly, consuming below-average quantities of kkakdugi kimchi was linked to a 9% lower prevalence of obesity in both sexes.

Moreover, consumption of 25 g/day for men and 11 g/day for women was associated with an 8% (men) to 11% (women) lower risk of abdominal obesity.

Implications and future research

It’s important to note that this is an observational study and cannot definitively establish cause and effect.

Additionally, the use of food frequency questionnaires has its limitations in accurately quantifying food intake. The findings may also not be applicable to populations outside Korea.

Despite the health benefits, the researchers caution against excessive kimchi consumption due to its high sodium content, which can be detrimental to overall health.

However, they suggest that the potassium in fermented vegetables may help counteract this effect.

In summary, the study concludes that while moderate kimchi consumption appears beneficial in reducing obesity prevalence, excessive intake could lead to adverse health outcomes.

As one of the major sources of sodium intake, a balanced consumption of kimchi is recommended to enjoy its health benefits without the associated risks.

The full study was published in the journal BMJ Open.


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