In a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, researchers found that people with a more robust balance of bacteria in their gut are more likely to perform well on tests of standard thinking skills including attention, flexibility, self-control, and memory.
Previous studies on animal models found that the gut microbiota is involved in systemic inflammation, which is a risk factor for brain pathology.
A Mediterranean diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein, and low in processed foods, plus regular physical activity, is known to be good for the brain.
In the study, the team examined gut bacteria in nearly 600 participants. They analyzed one gene that identifies the general bacteria group but doesn’t go into the specifics.
They found people with gut microbial diversity tended to do better on six standard tests of thinking skills and memory (cognition).
Several specific kinds of bacteria—Barnesiella, the Lachnospiraceae FCS020 group, and Sutterella—appeared to affect performance on mental tests.
Researchers say that increased bacterial diversity, in general, is good for your health and less diversity is not as good, and this applies to a whole range of health conditions including brain health.
The study contributes to the understanding of the gut-brain axis’ role in mental function and dysfunction.
They need additional human data to further investigate the important relationship between cognition and the gut microbiome.
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The study is published in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by Katie Meyer et al.
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