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New Research Uncovers Additional Reasons to Eat Kimchi


Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish made by salting and fermenting vegetables with various flavorings and seasonings, is well known as a health food. Cabbage and radish are usually the main vegetables used in the dish, which contains few calories and is rich in dietary fiber, microbiome-enhancing lactic acid bacteria, vitamins, and polyphenols. Studies have shown that kimchi may have antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-tumor, anti-microbial, and immune-stimulating activities.

Previous research on mice also suggested that kimchi may help combat obesity—a link that was further born out in a human trial published in January 2024 in the journal BMJ Open.


The Study

In light of the previous research on mice, a team of Korean researchers wanted to know if regular Kimchi consumption might be associated with a reduction in the risk of overall and/or abdominal obesity in humans, which is considered to be particularly harmful to health.

They drew on data from 115,726 participants—36,756 men and 78,970 women with an average age of 51—who were taking part in the Health Examinees (HEXA) study, a large, long-term examination of the environmental and genetic risk factors for major chronic diseases. Subjects were asked how often they ate a serving of 106 different foods—from never or seldom, up to three times a day—during the previous year. The researchers also measured the height and weight of each participant (to calculate BMI), as well as waist circumference.

After accounting for potentially influential factors, the researchers found that participants who ate up to three daily servings of kimchi had a lower prevalence of obesity compared with those who ate less than one daily serving. “The present study showed that total kimchi consumption of 1–3 servings/day is inversely associated with the risk of obesity in men. Also, in men, a higher intake of baechu (cabbage) kimchi was related to a lower prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity. A higher consumption of kkakdugi (radish kimchi) was associated with lower prevalence of abdominal obesity in both men and women,” the researchers wrote.

Interestingly, however, the results indicated a J-shaped curve. Compared with those who ate less than one daily serving of total kimchi, participants who ate five or more servings weighed more, had a larger waist size, and were more likely to be obese—possibly because higher consumption is associated with higher intake of total energy, carbohydrates, protein, fat, sodium and cooked rice, the researchers said.



While the study’s strengths included its large size and detailed analysis, the researchers noted that it suffered from several limitations, including the fact that the cross-sectional design limited their ability to make a causal inference. “A longitudinal study is necessary to better understand the impact of kimchi on obesity. Furthermore, this finding cannot be generalised due to the study’s focus on Korean participants,” they wrote. “Further investigation and prospective studies are needed to confirm the relationship between kimchi consumption and obesity.”

Even so, the researchers said, their results add to the evidence that kimchi can have positive health effects—when consumed in moderation. In addition to the “J-shaped” curve observed in the study, the researchers also warned that kimchi is a significant source of sodium, so excessive consumption could lead to other health issues.



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