According to a new study, people with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to improve their memory and thinking skills by taking probiotics.

Probiotics, “friendly” beneficial bacteria, can help balance the levels of microorganisms in the intestines and drive down numbers of harmful bacteria.

For the first time, scientists have proven that probiotics taken as dietary supplements can improve cognitive function in humans. In a new clinical trial, scientists found that a daily dose of and bacteria taken over a 12-week period is enough to yield a moderate but significant improvement in the score of elder Alzheimer’s patients on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scale, a standard measure of cognitive impairment.

Past research on probiotics has shown that probiotic supplements can help protect against certain infectious diarrheas, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, allergies, and tooth decay. However, scientists have also long hypothesized whether probiotics can also boost brain function, as there is continuous two-way communication and interaction between intestinal microflora, the gastrointestinal tract and the brain, known as the “microbiota-gut-brain axis.” In mice, probiotics have indeed shown to improve learning and memory, and reduce anxiety and depression. However, prior to a recent study there was very limited evidence of any cognitive benefits in humans.

The latest study by a team from Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, and Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran, is the first to demonstrate that the use of probiotics improves cognitive function in humans. A randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial analyzed 52 women and men with Alzheimer's between 60 and 95 years of age. Half of the participants in the study received daily 200 ml milk enriched with four probiotic bacteria: , , , and  (approximately 400 billion bacteria per species), while the other half received untreated plain milk.

At the beginning and end of the 12-week experimental period, scientists took blood samples from participants for biochemical analyses and tested the cognitive function of the subjects with the MMSE questionnaire. Over the course of the study, the average score on the MMSE questionnaire significantly increased (from 8.7 to 10.6, out of a maximum of 30) in the group receiving probiotics, but in the control group given ordinary milk their scores actually fell from 8.5 to 8.0.

The group given probiotics also showed improvements in insulin metabolism and lipid profiles, which leads researchers to believe that metabolic changes might be responsible for the difference of cognitive function in the groups from this study. Even though the increase of cognitive function is moderate, these results are important because they are the first to show that probiotics can improve human brain function.

The improvements in memory and thinking confirmed from this study will need to be repeated in much larger studies before we can understand the real benefits of probiotics for the brain. But, this study continues to raise interesting questions about the links between the gut and the brain, and their association with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you or someone you know suffers from Alzheimer’s disease start taking probiotics today! Consider a custom blend of ,  and . Call us today for more information.

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