New study investigating probiotic effects on markers of gut-brain communication as a vital step towards healthy ageing has received 400 000 SEK funding from Dr P Håkanssons Foundation

Julia Rode portrait

Credits for photo: Markus Rode

Researchers from Örebro University will investigate probiotic effects on mental health and cognitive function as well as their interplay.

The overall purpose of the study is to assess whether probiotic intake could be used preventively in an ageing population to maintain good mental health and high cognitive function – hence, support healthy ageing.

Increased life expectancy is now causing the ageing population to grow, mainly in Western societies. Although age-related cognitive decline (e.g. in memory function) is expected, measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle can help to minimise cognitive decline and support overall cognitive health. Studies have shown that there are several factors that can contribute to healthy ageing and maintain cognitive function. Such factors include, amongst others, a healthy diet that can be supported by the intake of specific nutritional supplements. Recent studies have suggested that certain probiotic supplements, or so-called "beneficial bacteria", can help to promote healthy ageing by strengthening the intestinal immune system, improving digestion and reducing inflammation in the body.

Our previous studies have shown that probiotic supplements can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, two factors that in turn can negatively affect cognition. Although these probiotic effects on psychological symptoms (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression) and cognition have already been examined individually, very little is known about their interplay. – says Dr Julia Rode, one of this year’s Dr P Håkanssons Foundation’s awardees.

The current study will assess the effect of probiotic supplementation on both mental health and cognition simultaneously, in a study population of healthy male and female 60- to 80-year-olds.

We are particularly interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms and therefore focuses on the analysis of for example blood markers related to mental health and cognition. – says Dr Julia Rode.

The interdisciplinary research team from Örebro University includes neurobiologists, physiologists, (bio)medical researcher, epidemiologists and a clinical nutritionist & gastroenterologist, amongst others.

The long-term benefits of this study could be of great importance for healthy ageing.

The project will be carried out at Örebro University within the Nutrition-Gut-Brain Interactions Research Centre (@NGBIgutbrain on twitter) and the Centre for Experimental and Biomedical Imaging in Örebro (CEBIO).

Link to Dr P Håkanssons Foundations’ homepage.