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Fermented foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for those at higher genetic risk

17 June 2015

A diet which includes fermented food products, such as fermented milk products containing probiotics, may help patients suffering from social anxiety disorder, according to US research recently published in the Journal Psychiatry Research. A link between probiotics and anti-anxiety tendencies has been previously reported, where consumption of probiotics over a 4 week period resulted in decreased activity in sensory, prefrontal and limbic regions of the brain when the patient experiences sad emotions, but this is the first study examining the relationship in detail. 710 young adults were assessed for fermented food intake, their diets in general, exercise and neurotic tendencies; those with higher neuroticism showed fewer symptoms of social anxiety with greater consumption of fermented foods. An increase in exercise frequency was shown to have the same effect. 

These findings, in conjunction with historical studies that show neuroticism is often a family trait, suggest that young adults displaying evidence of inherited neurotic tendencies could use the consumption of probiotic containing foods to reduce the effect of social anxiety in their lives.

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