Kimchi’s anti-cancer properties are a focus of growing interest. Professor Park of Pusan University injected a Kimchi extract into mice with cancer cell transplants. After one month, the control set had an average tumor weight of 4.3 grams, whereas the group that were fed with Kimchi extract had an average tumor weight of 2.0 grams. How can this be explained?
Professor Chang Ja-jun of Seoul National University’s College of Medicine discovered that each of Kimchi’s ingredients, such as cabbage, chili pepper, and garlic, were effective in preventing various types of cancer.
Capsaicin, for example, which is responsible for the chili pepper’s spicy taste, is known to suppress lung cancer. Allicin, contained in garlic, is known to suppress liver cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, and thyroid cancer. Indole-3-carbinol, contained in cabbage, is also known to suppress stomach cancer.
Studies in other countries have produced similar results. In 1999, Harvard Medical School reported that eating cabbage and broccoli can reduce the risk of bladder cancer. The U.S. National Cancer Institute chose garlic as the number one anti-cancer ingredient out of a selection of 40 different foods.
SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). the first epidemic of the 21st century, spread to 29 countries in just a few months. 95% of SARS cases were concentrated in Asia, particularly in China and the surrounding countries. Surprisingly, not a single case of SARS was reported in Korea, despite its proximity. From this point on, researchers started to pay more attention to kimchi and its effect on the immune system.
Two years after the initial outbreak of Bird Flu, the BBC reported that scientists had identified the possibility that Kimchi might help in the fight against avian influenza. A research team lead by Professor Kang Sawook of Seoul National University fed the lactobacillus culture fluid extracted from Kimchi to chickens that were infected with the virus.
According to their research, the chickens that were fed only with regular food had a survival rate of 54%, whereas those that were fed with the extract of Kimchi had a survival rate of 85%. In the case of the chickens fed normally, the virus reduced their egg-laying capacity to 50%, but when fed with the Kimchi extract, this increased again to 85%.
In November 2006, Dr. Lee Jong-kyung of the Korea Food Research Institute found that other viruses such as salmonella, O-157, and vibrio bacteria were introduced into a sample of well-fermented Kimchi (pH 4.4), 99% of the bacteria were destroyed within 4 hours, and the vibrio bacteria within 10 minutes.
Korea has the lowest obesity rate in the OECD (3.5%). According to Professor Park Kunyoung of Pusan University, this effect is largely due to the capsaicin in the chili pepper. However, when other ingredients are added, such as garlic, ginger, and radish, and fermentation takes place, the effects are increased again.
In an experiment with groups of mice put on a high-fat diet for four weeks, the group fed with chili pepper and the group fed with Kimchi lost a significant amount of weight compared to the group fed on the high-fat diet alone. Notably, the mice fed with the Kimchi and high-fat diet maintained a similar weight to the group on regular feed.
Kimchi can be purchased at various places in London – although New Malden is the Mecca for most things Korean, there are also Hanna Supermarket, Centre Point Food Store, and Seoul Plaza. If introducing kimchi to acquaintances who are not used to Korean food, it can be added to scrambled egg, tomato, and mushrooms, or used it as a filling for baked potato. Although it does not have the glamour and instant appeal of Sushi, I think kimchi will gain a wider acceptance in the UK in time. Particularly if global pandemics are to become a standard element of 21st century life!