HealthDay News — Fermented foods that contain probiotics seem to have a protective effect against social anxiety, especially among those with neuroticism, according to a study published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Matthew R. Hilimire, PhD, from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and colleagues used a cross-sectional approach to examine the correlation between consumption of fermented foods likely to contain probiotics and social anxiety symptoms. Seven hundred ten young adults (445 female) completed self-report measures of fermented food consumption, neuroticism, and social anxiety.

The researchers found that in an interaction model, exercise frequency, neuroticism, and fermented food consumption significantly and independently predicted social anxiety after adjustment for demographics, general consumption of healthful foods, and exercise frequency. Fermented food consumption and neuroticism interacted in predicting social anxiety. Higher frequency of fermented food consumption correlated with fewer symptoms of social anxiety for those high in neuroticism.

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“While additional research is necessary to determine the direction of causality, these results suggest that consumption of fermented foods that contain probiotics may serve as a low-risk intervention for reducing social anxiety,” the authors write.


Hilimire HR, et al. Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety: An interaction model. Psychiatry Res. 2015; 228(2):203-208.