A new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine revealed that eating live-cultured yogurt could potentially reverse depression and anxiety symptoms.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the probiotic bacteria found in yogurt called lactobacillus has a direct link in the onset of depression symptoms, and eating more of these probiotic bacteria could alleviate them.
"The big hope for this kind of research is that we won't need to bother with complex drugs and side effects when we can just play with the microbiome," said Alban Gaultier, Ph.D., a researcher at UVA's Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study, in a press release. "It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health -- and your mood."
For the study, the researchers analyzed the composition of the gut microbiome of mouse models before and after they were subjected to stress. The researchers observed that as the mice got stressed, the amount of lactobacillus in their guts decrease. With the loss of lactobacillus came the onset of depressive symptoms. Interestingly, when the researchers gave the mice lactobacillus with their food, the mice almost returned to normal.
Further analysis of the relationship between gut microbiome and mental health revealed the mechanism by which lactobacillus influences depression. The researchers noted that the amount of lactobacillus in the gut affects the level of metabolite particles in the blood known as kynurenine. The researchers observed that the decrease in the amount of lactobacillus in the gut lead to the increase of kynurenine levels. As the levels of kynurenine went up, depression symptoms set in.
With the positive results of the study, the researchers are already planning to take their discovery to the next level and test the results on human trials.
The team hopes to examine the effects of lactobacillus to patients with multiple sclerosis, a group where the disorder is common. The researchers noted that the same biological substances and mechanisms lactobacillus uses to affect the mood in mouse models are also observed in humans. This suggests that the effect of lactobacillus to mental health may be the same.
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