As I talked about in The Gut Brain Connection, the health of the gastrointestinal system (specifically your microbiome) plays an important part in the maintenance of your brain function. Your gut microbes produce most of your brain’s neurotransmitter supply but they also control levels of inflammation in the blood and, subsequently it seems, the brain.
A study published at the beginning of this month (Nov 2016) in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience reported incredible results using probiotic treatment on Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, the study showed actual reversals of blood indicators associated with Alzheimer’s and improvements in mental function for patients using probiotic treatment, while the control group (not taking any probiotics) continued to worsen in those same markers!
This is significant because, normally, most research into Alzheimer’s looks at the possibility of only reducing the rate of cognitive decline, not actually reversing it.
Participants of the study underwent a widely used, standardised MMSE (Mini Mental Status Exam) and had their blood tested for an inflammatory marker called highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-CRP). Importantly, hs-CRP is a highly inflammatory marker & is often seen in higher levels in neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Of the 60 patients, 30 were given a placebo & 30 the probiotic formula. Probiotics used were Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus fermentum.
The Amazing Results
The placebo group (no probiotic) saw increases in their inflammatory hs-CRP score by an average of 45% whilst the experimental group receiving the probiotic actually declined (thus improving their inflammation levels) by 18%!
On the MMSE tests measuring cognitive function, the placebo group dropped from a mean score of 8.47 to 8.00, whilst the experimental group drastically improved their MMSE scores from an average of 8.67 up to 10.57 (a big shift).
Importantly this indicated a process of not just delaying or reducing the declining cognitive function of the participants, but actually regaining cognitive function!
Now, it would be easy to jump the gun & pull all sorts of conclusions from this but until the study is replicated we will always have to stick with the ‘may’ and the ‘potentially’, but this groundbreaking study certainly provides insight into the mechanistic functions of Alzheimer’s which has been observed to be consistently related to inflammation.
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Sources for this article include:
David Perlmutter M.D. (2016). The Empowering Neurologist – David Perlmutter, MD and Molly Fox, PhD. [online] Available at: http://www.drperlmutter.com/the-empowering-neurologist-david-perlmutter-md-and-molly-fox-phd/
Akbari, E., Asemi, Z., Daneshvar Kakhaki, R., Bahmani, F., Kouchaki, E., Tamtaji, O., Hamidi, G. and Salami, M. (2016). Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Cognitive Function and Metabolic Status in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 8.