Prebiotics May Improve Pre-Clinical Anxiety

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The hype around our gut health is at an all time high at the moment. Specifically, there is a massive wave of scientific research exploring the role of pre- and probiotic supplements in improving physical and mental ailments. This is very important not only for the healthcare professionals who advise patients in living a healthier lifestyle but also for us as individuals in ways to better our current health. Researchers from the University of Surrey carried out a study to investigate how consuming prebiotic supplements daily could improve the general well-being of 18-25 year-old healthy women.  

There were 64 female participants in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study with ages ranging from 18 to 25. Some of these participants were given galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), a strain of prebiotics, for four weeks. Prebiotics help with stimulating the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. The participants had no prior clinical diagnoses of anxiety, neurological, gastrointestinal, psychiatric, or endocrine disorders. They also had no frequent use of prebiotic or probiotics, no recent use of antibiotics, and were not vegan. They were also screened for their anxiety levels and were categorised into high-anxiety and low-anxiety groups. 

Participants were given a 28-day supply of supplements which could either be the GOS prebiotics, or the placebo – both taken daily. A stool sample was taken before the study and after. This was then examined via DNA extraction and analysis for counts of the 16S rRNA gene (this gene helps identify bacteria at the species level – this allows the identification of the amount of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine). 

The researchers found that those who were placed in the high-anxiety group and took GOS had anti-anxiety effects, such as an increase in their positive emotional bias. They also found that there was an increase in the amount of beneficial bacteria in the GOS group. Analysis of the microbiota composition also showed that the bacterial composition of those who took GOS before and after the study was very different. Those who took GOS showed that they had an increased amount of beneficial bacteria in their large intestine in comparison to the placebo group. This overall showed that taking GOS supplements does have anti-anxiety effects in high anxiety-females aged 18-25, as well as an increase in the amount of beneficial bacteria found in their gut microbiota. 

The emotional bias of those placed in the high anxious group A.) and low anxious group B.). The figure shows those who took the GOS had a higher positive emotional bias and lower negative emotional bias in comparison to the placebo group.
Source: Anxiolytic effects of a galacto-oligosaccharides prebiotic in healthy females (18–25 years) with corresponding changes in gut bacterial composition. Johnstone et al.

This study has shown that taking prebiotics may actually be beneficial not only to your gut microbiota composition but also your mental well-being. Information about our guts and how maintaining its health can have many impacts on our overall well being and may be crucial in helping clinicians implement interventions to improve the overall health of the population. What did you think about the article? Let us know in the comments below! 

Feature Image: Pexels, Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Original Source: Johnstone, N., Milesi, C., Burn, O. et al. Anxiolytic effects of a galacto-oligosaccharides prebiotic in healthy females (18–25 years) with corresponding changes in gut bacterial composition. Sci Rep 11, 8302 (2021)

Edited by Cyrus Rohani-Shukla

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