A study in 2015 involving 710 university students indicated that yoghurt helps to reduce anxiety. Fermented food, or probiotics, such as yoghurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, have beneficial effects.
The young adults (445 females and 265 males) completed self-reporting measures of their food consumption, exercise frequency, personality, emotions, and social anxiety levels. They also took genetic tests to establish whether there were genetic tendencies towards anxiety.
Regarding the food consumption, researchers particularly studied fruit and vegetable intakes, as well as fermented food intakes.
The interaction model, controlling for demographics, general consumption of healthy food, and exercise frequency, showed that exercise frequency, neuroticism, and fermented food consumption significantly and independently predicted social anxiety. Additionally, there was a close relationship between fermented food and reduced neuroticism.
The results showed that participants who consumed fermented foods had fewer social anxiety symptoms, especially if they were already predisposed to neurotic tendencies. Researchers also found that exercise was linked to reduced social anxiety, but the fermented food link stood independent of exercise.
Combined with previous studies, the results indicated that fermented foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for those at higher genetic risk of anxiety and neuroticism.
Fermented foods with probiotics have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, which affects mood, and researchers think this may be the reason for the significant results in which participants with a high intake of food such as yoghurt had fewer anxiety symptoms. Direct causality is still to be determined through further studies, however these early results suggest that probiotics may serve as a low-risk and low-cost intervention for reducing social anxiety.
The main points of the research were:
- This study investigated the relationship between fermented foods and social anxiety
- Fermented food consumption, neuroticism, and exercise predicted social anxiety
- Fermented food consumption and neuroticism interacted to predict social anxiety
- Fermented foods should be further investigated as an intervention for social anxiety.
Researchers Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell from the Department of Psychology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and Jordan DeVylder from the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, conducted the research titled, Social anxiety: an interaction model, in Psychiatry Research (Vol. 228, Issue 2, April 28, 2015).