A groundbreaking, but preliminary, study has discovered a potential link between probiotics, gut health, and cognitive function.
While probiotics are often associated with digestive health benefits, this new study suggests they could have a positive impact on the aging brain, particularly for those with mild cognitive impairment.
Cognitive Decline and the Gut
The study focused on older adults experiencing mild cognitive decline, where memory and other cognitive functions begin to deteriorate, but daily tasks can still be completed.
After these individuals took a specific probiotic for three months, researchers found noticeable improvements in their cognitive abilities, which corresponded with changes in their gut bacteria.
While these results are promising, experts, including Robert Vassar from the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, warn that more research is necessary to confirm these preliminary findings.
The Gut-Brain Connection
There’s been an explosion of research in recent years exploring the relationship between the gut microbiome—home to trillions of bacteria essential for digestion and other bodily functions—and various diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Scientists are interested in understanding whether certain imbalances in the gut bacteria could contribute to the development of these diseases.
Previous research has shown differences in gut microbiome between mentally sharp older adults and those with dementia.
Even older people who don’t show dementia symptoms but have early markers of Alzheimer’s in the brain have a different gut microbiome.
The Probiotic Solution
The new study diverges from earlier ones in two ways: it focuses on older adults with mild cognitive impairment and it investigates the effects of modifying the gut microbiome with the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG).
LGG was chosen based on its potential benefits demonstrated in previous studies on mice.
The study included 169 adults aged 52 to 75, who were either cognitively healthy or met the criteria for mild cognitive impairment. They were randomly assigned to take either LGG or a placebo every day for three months.
Results showed that the participants with cognitive impairment demonstrated significant improvements in memory and cognitive skills after three months on LGG.
These improvements correlated with a decrease in a certain type of gut bacteria called Prevotella, abundant in those with cognitive impairments.
The Future of Gut-Brain Research
While the results of this study are encouraging, experts, including the study’s lead researcher, Mashael Aljumaah, caution that the gut-brain connection is only one piece of the dementia puzzle.
Factors like a healthy diet and regular exercise, which can alter the gut microbiome, should not be overlooked.
Researchers plan to conduct further studies to understand how Prevotella might affect cognition.
There’s still a lot left to learn about which interventions might be most effective at slowing cognitive decline and who stands to benefit the most from such interventions.
Until then, it’s best to maintain a healthy lifestyle to protect your brain health.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease, and new non-drug treatments could help prevent Alzheimer’s.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease.
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