Lactobacillus Found in Yogurt Linked to Improved Mental Health, UVA Study Reveals

by Ella

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have uncovered a potential link between the bacterium Lactobacillus, commonly found in fermented foods and yogurt, and the management of stress, with implications for preventing depression and anxiety.


The discovery, led by UVA researcher Alban Gaultier and collaborators, offers a targeted approach to understanding the role of specific microbes within the microbiota and paves the way for new therapies addressing mental health conditions.


Gaultier’s research distinguishes Lactobacillus from the myriad microorganisms residing in and on the human body, collectively known as the microbiota. This breakthrough enables scientists to focus on individual microbes, presenting an innovative avenue for developing treatments for a range of diseases, both mental and physical.


The Role of Lactobacillus in Mood Disorders

The human gut hosts a vast array of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, collectively forming the microbiota, critical to immune systems, overall health, and mental well-being. Disruptions to the microbiota have been linked to various diseases, making it a focal point for potential therapeutic interventions.


Gaultier’s team honed in on Lactobacilli, particularly intrigued by its potential to reverse depression in lab mice, and sought to understand the underlying mechanisms.

“We were aware from our prior research that Lactobacillus was beneficial in improving mood disorders and was lost following psychological stress, but the underlying reasons remained unclear,” said Gaultier.

Innovative Approach: Altered Schaedler Flora

To unravel the mysteries, the researchers utilized a collection of bacteria known as “Altered Schaedler Flora,” including two strains of Lactobacillus. This allowed them to create mice with and without Lactobacillus without resorting to antibiotics.

The results were promising. The study outlined how Lactobacilli influence behavior and how a deficiency of the bacterium could exacerbate depression and anxiety. Specifically, Lactobacilli in the Lactobaccillacea family were found to maintain levels of the immune mediator interferon gamma, crucial for regulating the body’s stress response and preventing depression.

Implications for Future Therapies

The newfound understanding of Lactobacillus’s role opens doors for potential therapies targeting mental health conditions. This insight could lead to the development of probiotic supplements, specifically formulated to optimize Lactobacillus levels, offering a novel approach to preventing and treating depression and anxiety.

Researcher Andrea R. Merchak emphasized, “With these results in hand, we have new tools to optimize the development of probiotics, which should speed up discoveries for novel therapies.” The ability to explore maintaining healthy levels of Lactobacillus and interferon gamma could present innovative strategies for addressing mental health challenges.

In conclusion, the University of Virginia’s groundbreaking research provides a compelling link between the consumption of Lactobacillus in fermented foods and potential mental health benefits, offering hope for future therapies and preventive measures.


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