12 January - 20 June 2016

Fermented milk and brain health

5 June 13

Previous issues of Food E-news have reported on links between gut microbiota and brain health. Now a study at UCLA Medical School adds to evidence of a link. Writing in the journal Gastroenterology, the research team reports on findings of a study in which healthy women with no gastrointestinal or psychiatric symptoms were randomly assigned to groups and given fermented milk product with probiotic (FMPP), a nonfermented milk product or no intervention twice daily for 4 weeks.  The FMPP contained Bifidobacterium animalis subsp Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp Lactis. Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after the intervention to measure brain response to an emotional faces attention task and resting brain activity. Multivariate and region of interest analyses were performed. The researchers found that FMPP intake was associated with reduced task-related response of a distributed functional network containing affective, viscerosensory, and somatosensory cortices. Ingestion of FMPP was associated with changes in midbrain connectivity, which could explain the observed differences in activity during the task.  They concluded that four-week intake of an FMPP by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. They note this finding is consistent with recent rodent studies showing a modulatory effect of probiotic intake on a wide range of brain regions in adult animals. Moreover, this study is the first to demonstrate an effect of FMPP intake on gut– brain communication in humans. Further advances in this area could mean that modulation of the gut flora can provide novel targets for the treatment of patients with abnormal pain and stress responses associated with gut dysbiosis.

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