Mental wellbeing

Yoghurt bacteria could treat anxiety and depression

Yoghurt bacteria could treat anxiety and depression Gut probiotics can directly affect the brain

Probiotic bacteria found in yoghurt can alter brain chemistry and could be used to treat anxiety and depression-related disorders, according to the latest research.

Experiments conducted at University College Cork found that mice fed with Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 showed significantly fewer stress, anxiety and depression-related behaviours than those fed with just broth.

The findings highlight the important role bacteria play in communication between the gut and the brain, said lead researcher John F. Cryan.

"This study identifies potential brain targets and a pathway through which certain gut organisms can alter mouse brain chemistry and behaviour," Dr Cryan said.

The brain and gut are connected by the vagus nerve, and the research sought to determine if 'good bacteria' could be used to affect the brain through this nerve.

It is not clear how the probiotic does this - whether it interacts directly with the vagus nerve or there is a substance that is activating the vagus nerve.

The findings could lead to the development of a "microbial-based" approach to treating stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression, Dr Cryan said.

As probiotics are safe for human consumption, the next step could involve human trials.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This article was published on Thu 1 September 2011

Image © Marin Conic -

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