Probiotic strain shows anti-stress and anxiety benefits in RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / fizkes
© Getty Images / fizkes
Daily supplements of the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum P8 may alleviate stress and anxiety in stressed adults, says a new randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study with over 100 participants.

Data published in Clinical Nutrition​ indicated that 12 weeks of supplementation also led to improvements in memory and cognitive traits.

“Our present data illustrated that ​L. plantarum P8 reduced some stress and anxiety symptoms via anti-inflammatory properties, followed by enhanced memory and cognitive abilities. P8 also exerted different memory and cognitive functions in men and women. Taken altogether, our data presented a feasible and natural approach using a specific probiotic P8 to manage stress and anxiety,” ​wrote researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Gut-brain axis

The study adds to the small but ever-growing body of science supporting the potential cognitive benefits of probiotics.

Data from animal and human studies have suggested that probiotics may exert anti-anxiety benefits, and a review published in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment​ by Linghong Zhou and Jane Foster from McMaster University in Canada Using said that probiotics and prebiotics may alter the gut microbiota and influence the gut-brain axis to possibly open up new ways of influencing neuropsychological conditions.

Study details

Probiotics © Getty Images Dr_Microbe
© Getty Images / Dr_Microbe

The Malaysia-based scientists recruited 103 stressed adults with an average age of 32 to participate in their randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or L. plantarum​ P8 (20 billion CFU per day) for 12 weeks.

Results showed that, according to the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-42), the P8 group exhibited reduced stress, anxiety, and total scores. However, no impact on depression scores were recorded.

Markers of inflammation were also impacted by the placebo supplements, with significantly lower over 12 weeks for IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, compared to placebo.

These changes were accompanied by improvements in a range of cognitive and memory measures. Despite significant variations among the participants, the researchers did observe some gender-specific benefits. These included improvements in social emotional cognition for women but not men, and memory of international shopping list for men and not women.

Women also exhibited marginal improvements in speed of the identification task, compared to the placebo.

“Our current data illustrated that P8 exhibited a stress and anxiety reducing potential together with improved cognition and memory primarily via targeting anti-inflammatory properties,” ​wrote the researchers. “P8 has been previously reported to benefit the gut environment via suppressing gut pathogens while increasing population of beneficial gut microbiota, accompanied by increased concentrations of short chain fatty acids in adults.

“Considering that increased abundance of gut pathogens often leads to increased accumulation of pro-inflammatory metabolites, while probiotics primarily benefit gut health, we strongly believe that inflammation plays a crucial role in brain pathophysiology along the gut-brain-axis.”

Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.09.010
“Probiotic ​Lactobacillus plantarum P8 alleviated stress and anxiety while enhancing memory and cognition in stressed adults: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study”
Authors: L-C. Lew   

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