Depression

Charlottesville – Yogurt rich in lactobacillus could help you reverse your depressive symptoms, suggests a new study that has found a direct link between the health of the gut microbiome and mental health.

A team of researchers from University of Virginia, US, fed mice Lactobacillus, a probiotic bacteria found in live-cultures yogurt, to find that the depressive symptoms in mice were reversed. Researchers say their findings will hold true even in case of people and are planning to confirm their findings in patients with depression.

Researchers explain that role of gut microbiome in depression and other health conditions has been the focus of many studies lately. The team at University of Virginia set out to see if they could find a concrete link between depression and gut health. The answer appears to be yes!

Looking at the composition of the gut microbiome before and after mice were subjected to stress, the team found that the major change was the loss of Lactobacillus. With the loss of Lactobacillus came the onset of depression symptoms. Feeding the mice Lactobacillus with their food returned them to almost normal. Scientists say that even a single strain of Lactobacillus has the potential of influencing mood.

The team went on to determine the mechanism by which Lactobacillus influences depression. They found that the amount of Lactobacillus in the gut affects the level of a metabolite in the blood called kynurenine, which has been shown to drive depression. When Lactobacillus was diminished in the gut, the levels of kynurenine went up – and depression symptoms set in.

The team has been careful to call the symptoms seen in mice as “depressive-like behavior” or “despair behavior,” as mice have no way to communicate that they are feeling depressed. But those symptoms are widely accepted as the best available model for looking at depression in creatures other than humans.

Researchers now intend to start studying the effect of Lactobacillus in people as soon as possible. They intend to examine the effects of Lactobacillus on depression in patients with multiple sclerosis, a group in which the disorder is common. Promisingly, the same biological substances and mechanisms Lactobacillus uses to affect mood in mice are also seen in humans, suggesting the effect may be the same.

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