Personalised diet and supplements targeting gut health the key to neurological health, review concludes

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Pablo K
Getty | Pablo K

Related tags personalised nutrition microbiome Probiotics omega 3 Gut health Supplements

A review has examined the role of gut health promoting supplements, such as probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids, in modulating cognitive health, with calls for personalised interventions.

The evidence presented in the review from the Medical University of Lublin, Poland, suggests that supplemental nutrients or a nutrient-dense diet can be a successful method for treating neurologic disorders. 

The authors state: “Careful dietary component selection may affect the onset and progression of a variety of neurological disorders by restoring metabolic and oxidative equilibrium and altering inflammatory pathways in various tissues, including the brain.

“A diverse and healthy gut microbiome can help to promote the production of neurotransmitters, regulate inflammation, and support the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, all of which are essential for maintaining optimal neurological health.”

Neurological Health and Nutrition 

It is widely acknowledged that neurological disorders contribute significantly to both disability and mortality.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Brain Council (EBC) both present troubling statistics regarding the morbidity of diseases of the central nervous system. According to data from the WHO​, depression will surpass all currently prevalent major oncological diseases and metabolic disorders by the year 2030. According to the ECB’s estimates​, one in three Europeans experiences a brain disorder at least once per year.

Consistent research is being conducted into the progression of diseases and how nutrition can affect advancement. 

The authors of the review state: “Diet and inflammation are interconnected and play a crucial role in the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, and depression.”

Inflammation has been found to be largely controlled by dietary factors. Lower levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), have been linked ​to the nutritional content of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.

Microbiota and the gut-brain axis

The gut and brain communicate through various pathways, and  gut microbiota can influence this communication network by producing various metabolites and neurotransmitters that affect the brain and its function.

The authors of the review state: “The influence of nutrients on factors consisting of microbiome composition, microbial metabolites, gastrointestinal signalling molecules, and neurotransmitters strongly indicates that dietary patterns can affect the development of metabolic changes and inflammation​.” 

The microbiota is known to affect the brain ​by producing metabolites like short-chain fatty acids, which can affect the central nervous system. Additionally, changes in the gut microbiota have been linked​ to modifications in the concentrations of neurotransmitters that affect mood and behaviour.

Nutrient Specifics 

On nutritional specifics, the authors state: “Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fibre can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and help reduce inflammation, which is a key contributor to the development and progression of neurological diseases and malaise.”

In vitro and in vivo studies​ included in the report, found that polyphenols can reduce disease symptoms in people with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID) by acting at the local and systemic levels and modulating a variety of molecular pathways.

The report also references that omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to have antidepressant effects​ and improve the effectiveness of antidepressant medications, an effect hypothesised to be caused by modulating neurotransmitter systems and lowering inflammation. A systematic review​ found that supplementing with certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants may improve cognitive and clinical outcomes in patients with schizophrenia, possibly by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. 

Additionally, various studies​ referenced in the report investigated the impact of supplementing with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin D, B vitamins (including B6, folic acid, and B12), vitamin E, and carotenoids on the symptoms associated with distinct stages of schizophrenia.

On antioxidants, the authors state: “Antioxidant properties can play a crucial role​ in preventing or ameliorating various diseases that are associated with oxidative stress, such as atherosclerosis and other chronic degenerative disorders.”

Some studies​ also referenced in the report suggested that probiotics may have beneficial effects on depression, anxiety symptoms, and cognitive function. The authors state: “Preclinical investigations ​suggest that administering probiotics can lessen both peripheral and central inflammation by reducing the levels of IL-6 and TNFα, and mitigate oxidative stress by lowering peripheral superoxide anion levels.”

One study​ additionally showed that 12 weeks of use of probiotics (containing strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus reuteri​, and Lactobacillus ursi​) by Parkinson’s disease patients enhanced their metabolic state, decreased insulin resistance, and increased glutathione levels.

Looking at some examples, nutritional variation can have a wide range of beneficial effects on neurological health. Meeting a person’s nutritional needs could be achieved through personalised treatment which recognises diversity between individual microbiomes.

Personalised nutrition

It is understood that several factors, including genetic predisposition, personality traits, and environmental factors, can contribute to the emergence of poor mental health.

Due to multiple variables, the authors of the report suggest personalised nutritional interventions may constitute a non-invasive and effective strategy in combating neurological disorders.

With the example of schizophrenia, the authors state: “The likelihood of a ‘one size fits all’ nutritional intervention for treatment is slim.

“A personalised medicine strategy, incorporating nutritional therapy as a significant component, may prove to be a more advantageous approach for managing individuals with schizophrenia​.”

Journal: Nutrients

“The Role of Diet as a Modulator of the Inflammatory Process in the Neurological Diseases”

Authors: Antonina Kurowska, Wojciech Ziemichód, Mariola Herbet and Iwona Piątkowska-Chmiel.

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