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Little bugs for big depression

Your gut and your brain communicate much more often than you’d think. In fact, all the time. Hence the potential for consuming gut inhabitants (aka probiotics) and impacting brain-related maladies

Study under review: Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, doubleblind, placebo-controlled trial

Introduction

Almost 20% of the population is affected by major depressive disorder (MDD) at some point during their life. Not only is this depressing news, but a number of studies have shown a link between MDD and biomarkers[1] of inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and other medical comorbidities.

A number of emerging treatment options exist for depression, including the use of probiotics. Although probiotics are more often thought of as helpful for IBS[2] or even lowering cholesterol[3], it is possible they can also provide benefits for people with mood disorders like depression. You may remember a previous article from Study Deep Dives #8 discussing a study[4] that showed the effect of probiotics on reducing the likelihood of future sad mood in people who were currently healthy. Multiple other studies[5] have shown improvements in mood states, as well as markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, after probiotic supplementation in a variety of participant populations.

The reason that probiotics might have an effect on a person’s mood relates to the gut-brain axis[6], as shown in Figure 1. Communication between the gut and brain[7] exists through a variety of neural, endocrine, and immune pathways that interact with intestinal microbiota. Supplementation with probiotics is not always[8] effective, however, for improving mental health.

Figure 1: Probiotics and the gut-brain axis

Adapted from: Foster and Neufeld. Trends Neurosci. 2013 May.

Despite a number of promising studies looking at the effects of probiotics on mood states, the effect of supplementation on depressive symptoms and metabolic biomarkers in patients specifically having MDD had not been assessed. Therefore, the aim of this new study was to determine the effects of a multi-strain probiotic supplement on symptoms of depression, markers of glucose control, lipid concentrations, biomarkers of inflammation, and oxidative stress in people with MDD.
Almost 20% of people may be affected by major depressive disorder (MDD) at some point in their lives. Probiotics represent a potential intervention that can improve symptoms of depression, but it’s yet to be studied in people with MDD.

Who and what was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #16 (February 2016)