In a recent study, researchers at University College Cork found that participants who took a specific probiotic capsule daily for a month reported less stress and anxiety — and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol — when compared to those who took a placebo instead.
Ted Dinan, head of psychiatry at University College Cork (UCC), said the findings of the study are still preliminary and need to be confirmed in more people, but that it’s a promising start. While not a drastic change, the effect of the probiotic bacteria was noticeable enough to be of help to some individuals.
Participants performed better on memory tests that required them to pair objects together, such as a color and a number, and enjoyed lower stress levels with the probiotics as well. And this isn’t the first time UCC researchers observed this effect. They had conducted similar studies on mice, and Dinan enthusiastically noted that this study is one of the few examples where a probiotic acted the same way in humans as it did in rodents during preclinical trials .
The live bacteria being studied is a harmless strain known as Bifidobacterium longum 1714 (B longum). One possibility here is that the substances released by B longum activate the vagus nerve, which connects the gut to the brain.
For now, the science isn’t fully understood, but Dinan still hopes to see a major advance in neuroscience and psychiatry soon. What’s more, he’s optimistic that within the next five years, there will be a probiotic on the market that can effectively treat mild anxiety and depression without the side effects that come with powerful medications. This is big news for anyone who suffers from these conditions!
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