Nestlé-backed study links probiotic strain and depression

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Irritable bowel syndrome

Probiotics could help relieve symptoms of depression in addition to aiding gastrointestinal upsets, according to new Canadian research backed by Nestlé.

Research in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found that twice as many people taking the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum​ NCC3001 (BL) saw a significant improvement in co-existing depression compared to those taking a placebo.

Writing in the journal Gastroenterology, ​researchers from McMaster University noted that while previous studies have demonstrated that probiotic strains can reduce symptoms of IBS, “little is known about their effects on psychiatric comorbidities.”

According to senior author Dr Premysl Bercik, the study also provides further evidence that the microbiota is in direct communication with the brain, and that the gut-brain axis could be an important avenue for preventing and potentially reversing cognitive disorders and mental health issues.

"This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS,”​ he said. “This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases.”

IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas

The Gut-Brain Axis will be the focus of a special workshop at the upcoming IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas in San Francisco, June 7-9.​ The workshop will open with a presentation from Dr Paul Forsythe, assistant professor and principal investigator at McMaster University’s Brain-Body Institute.


While there is a growing body of data from animal studies, there are not a lot of human clinical trials out there to date. “The lack of human data is a big issue,”​ Dr Forsythe told us.

Dr Forsythe will be joined by experts from the University of California, Irvine, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco at the Gut-Brain Axis Workshop during the IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas 2017.

For more information and to register for this event, please click HERE​.

IBS study: Human data

The pilot study, performed in collaboration with scientists from Nestlé, recruited 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate anxiety or depression and followed them for 10 weeks.

Half of the group took a daily dose of B. longum​ NCC3001, while the others had a placebo.

At six weeks, the team reported that 14 of 22, or 64%, of the patients taking the probiotic had decreased depression scores, compared to seven of 22 (or 32%) of patients given placebo.

Furthermore, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) showed that the improvement in depression scores was associated with changes in multiple brain areas involved in mood control.

“In a placebo-controlled trial, we found that the probiotic BL reduces depression but not anxiety scores and increases quality of life in patients with IBS,” ​wrote the team. “These improvements were associated with changes in brain activation patterns that indicate that this probiotic reduces limbic reactivity.”

Berciksaid the findings are the result of a decade long journey: “From identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain,"

"The results of this pilot study are very promising but they have to be confirmed in a future, larger scale trial," ​added Dr Maria Pinto Sanchez, the first author of the study.

Source: Gastroenterology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.003
“Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: a Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome”
Authors: Pinto-Sanchez MI, et al

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