Nov. 8, 2005 — -- Could sauerkraut be the next chicken soup?
The fermented food has been getting a lot of buzz lately, after scientists in Seoul claimed that 11 of 13 infected chickens started to recover from the avian flu after being fed an extract of kimchi, a Korean dish similar to sauerkraut, according to a BBC report.
With fear of a possible bird flu pandemic growing, sales of kimchi and sauerkraut have spiked in many areas of the world, various news reports state.
There is no medical research showing the fermented cabbage dishes have curative properties against the avian flu, but researchers have found other reasons people should stop by the condiment aisle on their next supermarket trip. A recent study by the University of New Mexico indicates that eating sauerkraut's main ingredient, cabbage, may help ward off breast cancer.
Researchers wanted to know why Polish women have low rates of breast cancer, so they compared Polish natives to Polish-American immigrants. They discovered that women who ate four or more servings of raw or barely cooked cabbage per week during adolescence were 74 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than the women who ate 1.5 or fewer servings of sauerkraut per week.
More research will be needed to prove a conclusive relationship, but that doesn't mean people should skimp on the sauerkraut. Cabbage is packed with vitamins that may boost the immune system, and fermented cabbage contains lactic acid, which helps with digestion and may weaken infections.
A one-cup serving of sauerkraut provides 102 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, 35 percent of vitamin C and 12 percent of iron, according to NutritionData. Plus, it contains only 32 calories, with four grams of fiber.
The breast cancer study is promising, said lead study author Dorothy Rybaczyk-Pathak. "Breast cancer risk is not just a function of the increase in factors that we acquire as we change the environment, but also what we give up in our diet or in our lifestyle," she told BreastCancer Source, a research Web site maintained by the drugmaker AstraZeneca.
Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN-12 contributed to this report.