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New field of nutritional psychiatry examines microbiome influence on cognition

Pre- and probiotics help regulate mood

A new health field of “nutritional psychiatry” is emerging as evidence that a beneficial bacterial balance in the gut “microbiome” can positively influence the brain and mood through the central nervous system. This review of seven clinical anxiety and/or depression studies included people over 18 who got one or more strains of probiotic, and/or prebiotics.

While the studies varied in length and design, all of them concluded probiotics alone or combined with prebiotics appear to measurably reduce depression, regardless of severity, and do not increase anxiety. The most common probiotics were from the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains.

Discussing the findings, doctors said those with anxiety or depression often have underlying metabolic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and that probiotics may have a twofold benefit: directly improving anxiety/depression, and also improving such underlying conditions as IBS.

Reference: BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health; February, 2020, Published Online

Curcumin supports memory and mood

An earlier study by these doctors found positive results for curcumin in cognition and mood. In this follow-up study, the doctors gave 80 healthy people, average age 68, a placebo or 80 mg of curcumin per day for 12 weeks.

Beginning at four weeks, those taking curcumin had lower fatigue scores, reported less tension, anger, confusion, and total mood disturbance. At 12 weeks, the fatigue benefit continued for curcumin and, compared to placebo, curcumin users had better working memory—the ability to temporarily hold information in mind to help with reasoning and decision-making. Also at 12 weeks, those taking curcumin had significantly higher blood glucose levels, which doctors were careful to emphasize, did not approach levels that would indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Discussing the findings, doctors said, “As with our previous study, bioavailable curcumin resulted in significant improvements in working memory and reductions in fatigue, and can improve mood and cognition in older, cognitively healthy people.”

Reference: Nutrients; June, 2020, Vol. 12, No.6, 1678

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