Irish scientist to analyse fermented foods on BBC programme

Teagasc’s Dr Paul Cotter will appear on ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ on Wednesday night

 Dr Paul Cotter is filmed  by the BBC for ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’. Photograph: Leila Finikarides/BBC Television

Dr Paul Cotter is filmed by the BBC for ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’. Photograph: Leila Finikarides/BBC Television


An Irish scientist will feature in a BBC television programme on Wednesday night, to discuss the apparent health benefits of eating fermented foods.

Dr Paul Cotter, head of food bioscience at Teagasc, will appear on the first episode of the new series of the popular BBC2 programme Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, at 8pm on Wednesday.

Now in its sixth season, the programme looks at a wide range of medical conditions.

The episode on Wednesday relates to how we can improve our health by eating foods that modify the mix of bacteria living in our digestive systems.

“I was highlighting the different health benefits you can get with certain types of fermented foods,” said Dr Cotter, who is also a principal investigator at the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork (UCC).

“The BBC commissioned studies of people who were fed different fermented foods and we analysed the results.”

His Teagasc colleague Aaron Walsh contributed to the analysis, as did researchers from Roehampton University.

Fermented foods, including yoghurts, cheeses and chutneys, are common in most kitchens.

However, the BBC programme wanted to look at less well-known fermented foods, including kefir milk, a yoghurt-like fermented drink that originated in the north Caucasus Mountains.


The programme set up trials in which groups of volunteers were given kefir milk, a commercial yoghurt drink and prebiotic inulin, a soluble dietary fibre found in foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, to see whether the substances promoted the growth of “good” gut bacteria.

Dr Cotter and Dr Walsh studied the results, which showed that the commercial drink had the least impact on gut health, while the kefir milk had the greatest impact.

The study found that taking these probiotic and prebiotic foods can help some people to modify their general health, by improving gut health.

“It is an alternative way of getting potentially health-promoting foods into your diet,” Dr Cotter said.