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Research Project: Improved Processes for the Preservation and Utilization of Vegetables, Including Cucumber, Sweetpotato, Cabbage, and Peppers to Produce Safe, High Quality Products with Reduced Energy Use and Waste

Location: Food Science Research

Title: Fermented vegetables as vectors for the relocation of microbial diversity from the environment to the human gut

item Perez Diaz, Ilenys

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/24/2018
Publication Date: 11/29/2019
Citation: Perez Diaz, I.M. 2019. Fermented vegetables as vectors for the relocation of microbial diversity from the environment to the human gut. Book Chapter. p 91-120.

Interpretive Summary: Studies of the indigenous microbiota in fermented vegetables date back to the 1920s, few centuries after the first few discoveries of microbes as living cells capable of producing ethanol and fermented milk by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Cagnard-Latour, Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister occurred. No understanding of microbial diversity existed in the1900s and the tools available for such studies were limited. Such reality drastically contrasts with the knowledge and tools available for microbiological studies in the 21st century. The purpose of this chapter is to compare and contrast the advances made in the understanding of the indigenous microbiota in fermenting and fermented vegetables and describes, to the extent possible, how modern industrial production practices have impacted microbial diversity and consequently the role of fermented vegetables as a delivery vehicle for microbes to the human gut. The many metabolic and physiological functionalities of the cultures present in fermented vegetables are not the focus of this book chapter.

Technical Abstract: The discovery of yeasts as living cells able to produce ethanol in fermented foods and beverages in the 1920s continues to captivate our imagination with respect to the functionality and role of microbes in food preservation and human health. Mounting evidence confirms the ability of microbes to deliver nutrition, flavor and many bio-functionalities to fermented foods and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of mammals. The microbial diversity found in fermented foods, particulalrly vegetables, can benefit the human GI tract microbiome. Critical functions for microbes associated with fresh vegetables include the contribution to growth, development and defense of host plants. In parallel, plants have evolved to select and maintain beneficial microbes, including those within their tissue. Fermentation then serves as an instrument to pre-adapt beneficial microbes indigenous to fresh vegetables to the acidic pH and high lactic acid concentration characteristic of the colon and to the metabolism of dietary fiber, particularly pectic substances naturally present in the plant material and the gut. Fermented vegetable products enjoy a long-lasting record of safety upon consumption and are an appropriate vector for the translocation of microbial diversity from plants to the gut. Fermented vegetables can enhance prebiotic fiber and beneficial microbes content and consequently augment the catalog of metabolic functions needed in and available to the gut for building resilience in a healthy individual. It is the indigenous microbiota of fermented vegetables and intrinsic chemical composition of substrates, particularly dietary fibers, which can enable beneficial health claims from the consumption of pickles.