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Breakthrough findings link probiotics and gut microbiome to memory in aging populations

[July 25, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]


Aging is an inevitable process. As we grow older, it's not uncommon to experience a decline in memory and thinking. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Aging is an inevitable process. As we grow older, it's not uncommon to experience a decline in memory and thinking. Yet, recent groundbreaking research indicates that a simple addition to one's diet, a probiotic, might counteract this cognitive decline.


Findings from this innovative study point to a future where non-invasive treatments, through the harnessing of the gut microbiome, become the frontline defense against cognitive decline in the aging demographic.


 
 

Researchers made the astonishing discovery that participants with mild cognitive impairment who ingested the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for a span of three months demonstrated a notable increase in their cognitive scores. This elevation in cognitive performance was further corroborated by marked changes in the gut microbiome of these participants.


Commenting on this breakthrough, Mashael Aljumaah, a dedicated microbiology doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, said, “The implication of this finding is quite exciting, as it means that modifying the gut microbiome through probiotics could potentially be a strategy to improve cognitive performance, particularly in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.”


 

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Aljumaah further emphasized the revolutionary understanding of the microbiome brain-gut connection, noting that it "opens up new avenues for combating cognitive decline associated with aging."


Aljumaah, whose affiliations also extend to King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to present these findings at NUTRITION 2023, the annual flagship gathering of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston.


 
 

The global health community has poured substantial resources into investigating severe forms of cognitive diseases, particularly Alzheimer's and dementia. However, Aljumaah argued, “Many studies focus on severe forms of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, but these conditions are more advanced, making them significantly harder to reverse or treat.” The team's research decided to diverge from this trend. They directed their focus towards mild cognitive impairment, which encompasses issues with memory, language, or judgment. The logic behind this was clear: “Interventions at this stage of cognitive impairment could slow down or prevent the progression to more severe forms of dementia.”


For study participants who had mild cognitive impairment and took the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for three months, cognitive scores increased. This cognitive improvement was also associated with changes in their gut microbiome. (CREDIT: Mashael Aljumaah, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University)


The study was methodically conducted, with 169 participants aged between 52 and 75 years old. They were stratified into two groups based on their neurological health status: those with no neurological issues and those with mild cognitive impairment. Following this, participants from each group were either administered the LGG probiotic or a placebo, in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial over three months. The choice of LGG probiotic wasn't arbitrary; it was rooted in prior research showcasing its potential beneficial effects, even in animal models.


 
 

Delving deeper into the gut microbiomes of participants, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was employed to identify and contrast bacteria in stool samples. This was further complemented by whole genome sequencing to provide a comprehensive insight into the functional roles of the detected bacteria.


Adults with mild cognitive impairment who received the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for 3 months had improvements in cognitive scores compared with those who received placebo, according to findings presented at NUTRITION. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


An intriguing find was the higher relative abundance of microbes from the genus Prevotella in participants with mild cognitive impairment compared to those with no cognitive issues. This shed light on the possibility of using the gut microbiome composition as a precursory indicator for mild cognitive impairment, thereby enabling earlier interventions.


 
 

Furthermore, the study identified that the relative abundance of Prevotella decreased in participants with mild cognitive impairment post their LGG probiotics regimen. This transformation was synchronized with their enhanced cognitive scores, bolstering the idea that older adults' cognitive health can be elevated by fine-tuning the gut microbiota.


Participants with mild cognitive impairment who ingested the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for a span of three months demonstrated a notable increase in their cognitive scores. (CREDIT: iStock Photos)


Looking Ahead


Aljumaah reiterated the significance of these findings, stating, “By identifying specific shifts in the gut microbiome associated with mild cognitive impairment, we're exploring a new frontier in preventive strategies in cognitive health.” If the results of this study withstand the scrutiny of future investigations, it paves the way for the incorporation of gut microbiome-targeted strategies in enhancing cognitive health.


 
 

On the horizon, researchers are delving into comprehending the intricate mechanisms through which microbes like Prevotella influence the gut to foster brain health. A key area of exploration is discerning how molecules synthesized by these bacteria might regulate the function of neuroprotective hormones that have the ability to permeate the blood-brain barrier.


In essence, while the journey to fully comprehend the gut-brain connection is ongoing, these initial findings represent a beacon of hope. They suggest that the future of combating age-related cognitive decline might just lie in the complex world of our gut microbiomes.






For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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