Can a Probiotic a Day Keep Cognitive Deficits at Bay?

Psychiatric TimesVol 34 No 2
Volume 34
Issue 2

New research shows it’s not “all in your head”-it’s also in your gut.


News Briefs

Adding evidence to support the microbiome-gut-brain axis in psychiatry, a new study found probiotics had a positive impact on cognitive function. The results of the randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial were published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.1

In the study, participants aged 60 to 95 years with Alzheimer disease were randomly assigned to either a control or a treatment group. The active treatment group (n = 30) received 200 mL/d of probiotic milk, which contained Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus fermentum (2 x 109 cfu/g for each). The control group (n = 30) received milk without probiotics. No adverse effects were noted, and 52 patients completed the study.

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) was used to assess cognition. At 12 weeks, the researchers found a 27.90% (± 8.07) improvement in MMSE scores in the probiotic group vs a 5.03% (± 3.00) decline in the control group (P < .001). While previous animal research has found evidence of a cognition-probiotic link, this is the first human study to do so.

The researchers also looked at the effect of probiotics on biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation and on metabolic profiles. They found a significant decrease in plasma malondialdehyde and serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels in the intervention group. Moreover, participants who received probiotics had substantially decreased serum triglyceride levels and reduced concentration of very-low–density lipoproteins.

“These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer and possibly other neurological disorders,” said Professor Mahmoud Salami, Kashan University of Medical Sciences. “We plan to look at these mechanisms in greater detail in our next study.”2


1. Akbari E, Asemi Z, Kakhaki RD, et al. Effect of probiotic supplementation on cognitive function and metabolic status in Alzheimer disease: a randomized, double-blind and controlled trial. Front Aging Neurosci. November 10, 2016;8:256.

2. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Probiotics improve cognition in Alzheimer patients. Accessed December 5, 2016.

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