L. plantarum HEAL9 probiotic may boost cognitive performance: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Dr_Microbe / Getty Images
© Dr_Microbe / Getty Images

Related tags Lactiplantibacillus plantarum Probiotics Probiotic microbiome microbiota-gut-brain axis stress management Sleep mood support

Daily supplementation with Probi’s HEAL9 probiotic strain may improve learning and working memory in healthy adults, says a new study from Sweden.

Twelve weeks of supplementation with Lactiplantibacillus plantarum​ HEAL9 was also associated with improvements in aspects of mood and sleep, reported scientists from Lund University and Probi AB.

“These effects may be linked to the stabilization of inflammatory biomarkers and to a significantly lower awakening level of cortisol in the probiotic group compared to the baseline,” they wrote in Nutrients​.

The study was funded by Probi, and the company’s CEO welcomed the results. “Mental health and wellness is a field with significant growth potential,” said Anita Johansen. “This complementary study demonstrates that our strain HEAL9 has a strong clinically proven effect in the gut-brain area and boosts our confidence ahead of the official launch of our new product at SupplySide West in Las Vegas in October."

According to Probi, this is the third clinical study in mental health documenting significant results on HEAL9.

Microbiota-gut-brain axis

The study adds to the ever-growing body of science supporting the role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis for cognitive function. The microbiota-gut-brain axis is a bidirectional interaction between the GI tract and the nervous system and implicates the ability of specific strains to produce key neurotransmitters like GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid), serotonin and dopamine.

Consumer awareness of the axis is growing, with a 2021 survey by FMCG Gurus revealing that 45% of consumers associated probiotics with cognitive health.

Probiotic products on the market are already making stress or anxiety-related claims, with data from Lumina showing that the US is the leading market for such products, followed by Italy and then Australia.

Additional market data from Future Market Insights​ indicates that the market for probiotic supplements supporting mental health and wellness (“psychobiotics”) is predicted to grow by 44% over the next 10 years, from $140 million in 2023 to $202 million in 2033.

Study details

The new study included 129 health adults (aged between 21 and 52), who were randomly assigned to received either the HEAL9 probiotic (L. plantarum​ DSM 15312) at a daily dose of 10 billion CFUs per day or placebo for 12 weeks.

Participants were required to complete several questionnaires to assess stress, mood, and sleep, including Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Profile of Mood State (POMS) questionnaire, and the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire. Cognition was assessed using six different tests: The word recall test (to assess short-term memory), numeric working memory test (NMW), rapid visual information processing test (RVIP, for attention), paired associate learning test (PAL, to assess learning and memory), four choice reaction time test (FCRT), and computerized Corsi block test (to assess spatial memory). Blood samples were also taken to assess various biomarkers, including cortisol.

The data showed that the probiotic group experienced significant improvements in four of the six cognition tests, compared to placebo, including RVIP, NMW, PAL, and word recall.

In addition, there was also a strong tendency for improved mood and sleep in the probiotic group.

The blood samples showed that awakening cortisol was significantly decreased over time in both groups.

“The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of the probiotic bacteria Lactiplantibacillus plantarum​ HEAL9 on moderately stressed but otherwise healthy individuals,” wrote the researchers. “Several different endpoints were included in the study, and the results showed that intake of LPHEAL9 for 12 weeks had a positive and significant impact on cognition.”

Source: Nutrients
2023, 15​(15), 3466, doi: 10.3390/nu15153466
“Intake of ​Lactiplantibacillus plantarum HEAL9 Improves Cognition in Moderately Stressed Subjects: A Randomized Controlled Study”
Authors: G. Önning et al.

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