Article by Becky Errico | 461 words
Probiotics are bacteria found in our stomachs as well as in food like yogurt. They have numerous physical benefits, including helping with digestion and the immune system. For this reason, probiotics are commonly sold as supplements.
But a new study, which was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, is showing that those bacteria may benefit a person’s mental health as well. This conclusion comes from a study performed by researchers from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
The Study on Probiotics and Depression
The researchers conducted a small trial with forty participants, all of whom were healthy young adults, specifically those who didn’t have mood disorders. The participants were split into two groups. The researchers gave one group probiotics while the other group just received a placebo. Both the probiotic and the placebo groups were given in a powder that was added to water or milk every night for a month, Time magazine explains.
At the beginning of the study and then again after the month had gone by, the participants filled out a questionnaire assessing their sensitivity to depression. Even though the participants were all relatively similar when it came to their mental state at the beginning of the study, the researchers found differences after the month went by. Those who had taken the probiotic had a substantial decrease in negative thoughts, sometimes called “ruminative thoughts” if they become destructive. These are obsessive, worrisome thoughts that can be a precursor to depression.
Researcher Laura Steenbergen says in a Yahoo Health article, “Ruminative thoughts are most important in predicting the onset and development of depression. This makes the effect of probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood a promising finding.” What still reminds unclear for researchers is how, exactly, the probiotics affect the negative moods.
Further Research on Probiotics and Mental Health
But according to The Huffington Post’s look at the study, it’s possible that the probiotics increase levels of plasma tryptophan. This is a neurochemical involved in mood, typically found in the gut. This is not surprising, considering how often a person’s mind and “gut” can influence their thinking.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University, told The Huffington Post, “Unquestionably, further research needs to be carried out. But the hope is that probiotics supplementation may work as a potential and effective preventive strategy for depression.”
Dr. Colzato told Time magazine that “as such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.” But this is just the beginning: while informative, the test looked at only a small sample size. With more tests, researchers can discover just how helpful probiotics can be for our mental health.
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