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Role of Microbes in Fermented Food
This is post no. 11 under the main topic.
As a previous poster mentioned, it is important to be aware of the bacterial content of foods in which fermentation is a feature and to ensure purity of culture in producing such foods. One response to the original post gives a comprehensive overview of some less well known fermented foods and their purported health benefits. Among the foods mentioned were the Nepalese-derived gundruk and sinki. Gundruk is derived from lactic-fermentation of leaves of mustard/radish/cauliflower while sinki is derived from radish root. The microbial content of samples of these foods has been assessed both phenotypically and also genotypically by RAPD-PCR, repetitive element PCR and species-specific PCR techniques. As would be expected, there are substantial lactic acid bacteria populations in these foods. In one study, the major lactic acid bacterial representatives identified were Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Pediococcus acidilactici and Leuconostoc fallax (Tamang et al., 2005). Further studies from this research group addressed functional properties of lactic acid bacteria from gundruk, sinki and other ethnic fermented vegetables. Properties such as antimicrobial activity, acidification and coagulation activities and multiple enzymatic activities were identified (Tamang et al., 2009b). A recent review gives a comprehensive overview of Indian fermented foods, including gundruk and sinki, and their significance as sources of lactic acid bacteria (Satish Kumar et al., 2013). Another recent review  considers the importance of these types of food as probiotic sources (Swain et al., 2014). However, despite these apparent health benefits, it is important to be mindful of any potential risks associated with such foods. For example, in one study on the cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) polymorphism and its role in increased risk of liver diseases in Northeast India, it was suggested that indigenous foods including Gundruk, which are high in nitrite and nitrosamine, might be an associated risk factor for liver disease in this region (Deka et al., 2010).


Tamang JP, Tamang B, Schillinger U, Franz CM, Gores M, Holzapfel WH. Identification of predominant lactic acid bacteria isolated from traditionally fermented vegetable products of the Eastern Himalayas. Int J Food Microbiol. 2005; 105(3):347-56.

Tamang JP, Tamang B, Schillinger U, Guigas C, Holzapfel WH. Functional properties of lactic acid bacteria isolated from the ethnic fermented vegetables of the Himalayas. Int J Food Microbiol. 2009; 135:28–33

Satish Kumar R, Kanmani P, Yuvaraj N, Paari KA, Pattukumar V, Arul V. Traditional Indian fermented foods: a rich source of lactic acid bacteria. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013; 64(4):415-28. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2012.746288.

Swain MR, Anandharaj M, Ray RC, Parveen Rani R. Fermented fruits and vegetables of Asia: a potential source of probiotics. Biotechnol Res Int. 2014; 2014:250424. doi: 10.1155/2014/250424.

Deka M, Bose M, Baruah B, Bose PD, Medhi S, Bose S, Saikia A, Kar P. Role of CYP2E1 gene polymorphisms association with hepatitis risk in Northeast India. World J Gastroenterol. 2010; 16(38):4800-8.

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