Africa has an age old history of production of traditional fermented foods and is perhaps the continent with the richest variety of lactic acid fermented foods. These foods have a large impact on the nutrition, health and socio-economy of the people of the continent, often plagued by war, drought, famine and disease.
In Northern Nigeria, Kindirmo, nono and warankasi are common fermented milk products. Kindirmo is prepared by fermenting cow milk and contains strains of lactic acid bacteria. Nono is the fermented skimmed milk that is prepared by the same procedure like kindirmo.
Warankasi is known among indigenous African consumers as cheese just as kindirmo and nono are considered as the equivalent of yoghurt.
In many parts of Nigeria, nursing mothers do give their babies ogi liquor (water from fermented cereal pulp) which is believed to cure. Medical experts found that ogi liquor, which contains a variety of organisms like Lactobacillus species, hinder the growth of common germs that cause diarrhoea in Southwest Nigeria.
Currently, there is the need for increase in intake of fermented foods, also known as probiotic foods that support health, above and beyond providing basic nutrition. Fermented foods, which contain probiotics such as local cheese, fufu, yoghurt, kunu, nono, ogi sour water, and fermented raffia palm sap? (oguro in Yoruba), can help alleviate anxiety.
Probiotics are live microorganisms – such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi – that in adequate amounts, may have health benefits. Found naturally in some fermented foods, and also available in tablet form, studies have shown they can improve digestion and help protect against disease by boosting immune function.
Strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria are the most commonly used probiotics, as they can survive the passage through your digestive system to the gut, including the highly acidic conditions of your stomach. These are mostly found in yoghurt, fermented soybean products like soy sauce as well as culture drinks such as fermented raffia palm wine.
A study by the University of Maryland, which found a link between fermented foods and social anxiety, indicated that individuals who had consumed more fermented foods had less anxiety in social situations.
Interestingly, the foods were said to favourably change the environment in the gut, and changes in the small intestine or gut in turn influence social anxiety.
Professor of Psychology, Matthew Hilimire, who led the research, said “it is absolutely fascinating that the micro-organisms in your gut can influence your mind.”
Around 700 students were asked to complete a questionnaire about their eating habits, alongside a wider study on social anxiety and neuroticism. They answered questions about their consumption of fermented foods during the previous 30 days, as well as their levels of exercise and average consumption of fruit and vegetables.
For years, scientists have discovered that the small intestine, a host to more than 1,000 known different species of bacteria, play a key role in digestion, the body’s defence against diseases and regulation of some diseases such as hypertension.
Experts in a new study found yogurt may cut down the chances of hypertension and stroke by six per cent. Each additional serving per week of skim or low-fat milk was associated with a two per cent lower risk of hypertension, suggesting that skim or low-fat dairy may delay symptoms but will not prevent the risk as individuals get older.
The study also found that consumption of one extra serving of yogurt or other fermented milk products per week meant a six per cent reduction in the risk of developing hypertension.
The study, titled Longitudinal Association of Dairy Consumption with the Changes in Blood Pressure and the Risk of Incident Hypertension: the Framingham Heart Study, was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Yogurt, above other products, may work better for reducing blood pressure and hypertension, as it features about 50 per cent more vitamins and minerals and 30 per cent more protein per 227grammes serving than milk does.
The health benefits of yogurt are numerous, as are its weight-loss benefits. In June 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on research linking yogurt consumption with improved weight. The article reported on “Intriguing evidence which suggests that changes in colonic bacteria might influence weight gain.”
A year earlier the British Journal of Nutrition found that the kinds of bacteria found in yogurt produced improvements in insulin sensitivity and inflammation.