Changing Gut Bacteria Through Diet Affects Brain Function

“Many of us have a container of yogurt in our refrigerator that we may eat for enjoyment, for calcium, or because we think it might help our health in other ways,” says Kirsten Tillisch, MD, an associate professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and the lead study author. “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment.” 

Cooking with Kathy Man

UCLA researchers now have the first evidence that bacteria ingested in food can affect brain function in humans. In an early proof-of-concept study of healthy women, they found that women who regularly consumed probiotics through yogurt showed altered brain function both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.

The study, conducted by scientists with UCLA’s Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress and the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA, appears in Gastroenterology.

The discovery that changing the bacterial environment, or microbiota, in the gut can affect the brain carries significant implications for future research that could point the way toward dietary or drug interventions to improve brain function, the researchers say. “Many of us have a container of yogurt in our refrigerator that we may eat for enjoyment, for calcium, or because we think it might help our health in other…

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