A new study found that bacteria in the gut had a direct effect on the brains of mice, which is thought to also be the case in humans.
If humans’ brains are influenced in the same way, researchers think it could stem a host of new ways to manage depression and also anxiety disorders. Bowel disorders have been related with stress-related psychiatric disorders in the past, which inspired the researchers to study the link further.
While experimenting on mice, the scientists fed them a broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 (a species that naturally lives in our digestive system). The mice that were fed this broth were found to display less signs of stress, anxiety and depression than those rodents fed plain broth. They were put in stressful situations during the experiment, such as being placed in a maze, and those that had eaten the bacteria-broth produced lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.
A researcher and neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, John Cryan, told LiveScience, “By affecting gut bacteria, you can have a very robust and quite broad-spectrum effect on brain chemistry and behavior.
“Without overstating things, this does open up the concept that we could develop therapies that can treat psychiatric disorders by targeting the gut.
“You could take a yogurt with a probiotic in it instead of an antidepressant,” but he emphasized that people suffering from depression couldn’t just go out and just buy any kind of yoghurt at their local supermarket, as its effectiveness would depend on the strain of probiotic which is included in the food.
John Cryan is optimistic though that if developed further, the probiotics could give patients less side effects than other anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, but he also added that despite testing this on mice, they are a long way off from trying this out on people.
The scientists published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
From the August 30, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.