Date: June 14, 2023 /Source: King’s College London

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry has revealed promising evidence that adding a probiotic blend containing 14 strains of bacteria to the diet can be beneficial for individuals undergoing treatment for major depressive disorder alongside antidepressants. Led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London in collaboration with ADM Protexin, the research demonstrated the potential of probiotic supplementation in supporting improvements in depression and anxiety scores over an eight-week period.

This pilot study is among the first trials conducted in a Western population to show both good tolerability of probiotics and positive effects on mental health in adults with depression who are currently taking antidepressants. The results provide a strong foundation for further investigation into the potential benefits of this probiotic food supplement in supporting mood and mental well-being in a larger-scale trial.

Increasing evidence suggests that the gut microbiota, which refers to the vast community of microorganisms residing in the gut, plays a role in mood regulation. The study, designed as a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial, aimed to explore whether enhancing gut health through probiotics—supplements containing beneficial bacteria—could serve as a novel pathway for supporting mental health and mood.

During the pilot trial, 49 adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder and with an incomplete response to prescription antidepressants were provided with either a widely available proprietary 14 strain blend probiotic supplement or an identical placebo (with 24 participants receiving the probiotic). Over the course of eight weeks, both groups showed improvement in their symptoms, but notably greater improvements were observed in the probiotic group starting from the fourth week. These meaningful improvements were measured against gold standard rating scales for depression and anxiety.

The senior investigator of the study, Professor James Stone, emphasized the significance of exploring probiotics as a potential treatment for individuals with a non- or partial response to antidepressants. He stated that the study demonstrated the tolerability of probiotics as a supplement for individuals already taking antidepressant medications and highlighted the need for further research to assess the beneficial effects of probiotics on depression and anxiety in larger populations.

In conclusion, this pilot study contributes valuable insights into the role of probiotics in mental health and mood regulation. It sheds light on the potential benefits of probiotic supplementation for individuals with major depressive disorder who are currently receiving antidepressant treatment. However, more extensive research is required to fully understand the link between the gut microbiome and mental well-being, and to determine the broader implications and effectiveness of probiotics in supporting mental health outcomes.

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Materials provided by King’s College London

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