Kimchi-derived probiotic shows potential as functional ingredient due to positive effect on immune regulation – RCT

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

A probiotic strain isolated from Korean kimchi has been found to strengthen immune responses. ©Getty Images
A probiotic strain isolated from Korean kimchi has been found to strengthen immune responses. ©Getty Images

Related tags kimchi South korea Probiotic Immunity

A new study shows that a probiotic strain isolated from Korean kimchi has beneficial effects on immune regulation, particularly in people with a weak immune system, highlighting its potential as a functional health food ingredient.

Heat-treated Lactiplantibacillus plantarum ​nF1 (HT-nF1) is an inactivated form of probiotic isolated from Korean kimchi.

Previous studies have indicated that HT-nF1 increases immune cell activation and production of various immunomodulators, including interleukin-12 (IL-12), Immunoglobulin G (IgG), and Immunoglobulin A (IgA).

To determine the effect of HT-nF1 intake on improving immune function, South Korean researchers conducted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 

The study was supported by South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI), with five authors from biotech firm IMMUNOBIOTECH Corp.

A total of 100 participants aged between 19 and 75 years, and with normal white blood cell counts, were randomly assigned to a placebo or HT-nF1 group.

Over an eight-week intervention, the HT-nF1 group was given capsules containing 5 × 1011 cells of nF1, while the placebo group took a placebo. The participants were advised to consume one capsule a day.

Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in regulating immune responses to pathogens by secreting interferon‐gamma (IFN‐γ) and producing cytokines, which can activate monocytes and dendritic cells, known to be key components of the innate immune system.

After eight weeks of HT-nF1 intake, significant changes in IL-12 were observed in the HT-nF1 group (p = 0.045).

On the other hand, serum IL-12 levels significantly decreased in the placebo group at week 8 (p = 0.007), compared with the baseline.

Among participants with low serum IgA and low NK cell activity, the change in NK cell activity significantly increased in the HT-nF1 group at all ratios, compared with that in the placebo group.

“Our results suggest that nF1 intake strengthens and regulates the immune system, particularly in people with weak immune systems, such as children, the elderly and patients, by activating NK cells,” ​the authors wrote.

In the safety evaluation, the frequency of adverse reactions and blood levels were considered negligible as they occurred within the normal or reference range.

“Therefore, HT-nF1 not only has a positive effect on the innate immune function but is also safe for human consumption, confirming its potential as a raw material that can help improve immunity.”

Immunity defenders

Due to ageing populations and the prevalence of infectious diseases, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been growing interest in immune support as well as steady demand for immune-enhancing functional materials.

Produced by white blood cells, various types of immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, have important contributions to immunity.

Of these immunoglobulins, IgA has a primary defense role against pathogens and activates mucosal immunity. Individuals with low serum lgA levels are readily exposed to diseases, such as respiratory infections.

Recent studies have showed that probiotics are associated with immunomodulatory effects.

In particular, several probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus casei ​Shirota, Lactobacillus acidophilus ​X37, and Bifidobacterium bifidum ​MF 20/5, reportedly increase innate immunity by increasing NK cell activity.  

Additionally, studies have found postbiotics to have similar effects as probiotics but are used in patients with weakened immune systems. Postbiotics are also associated with the strengthening of the innate and adaptive immune systems.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that both probiotics and postbiotics can regulate immunity by increasing the secretion of serum lgA.

It should be noted that as this study was conducted from November to March, most of the participants may have experienced cold stress due to the winter weather and sudden temperature changes.

For female participants, immune-related indicators may also be affected by physiological and general environmental conditions, such as the menstrual cycle.


Source: Nutrients

“Effect of Heat-Treated Lactiplantibacillus plantarum nF1 on the Immune System Including Natural Killer Cell Activity: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Study”

Authors: Geun-Hye Hong, et al


Pre-, pro-, post- and synbiotics will be key topics of focus at Growth Asia Summit 2024 – join us in Singapore to learn about market opportunities and glean insights from major industry experts. Find out more here

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