MU researchers link probiotics to a decrease in stress
COLUMBIA - The holidays is a time of giving and stress. Researchers at the University of Missouri may have found one solution for relief.
Early tests showed that probiotics, a type of "good" bacteria, are not only good for digestive health but they may decrease stress and anxiety.
According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, there was a six percent increase among adults who reported to being highly stressed and the average stress levels of adults has continued to rise.
The director of the MU Metagenomics Center, Aaron Ericsson, said the goal was to study how stress levels and anxiety were effected by probiotics commonly found in yogurt and other supplements.
The results were recently published in Scientific Reports a journal of Nature.
Ericsson and the research team found that the administration of probiotics can reduce stress and anxiety-related behavior and protect the gut from disturbances caused by stress and anxiety.
Although the studies results are limited to zebrafish, Daniel Davis, assistant director at MU Animal Modeling Core and lead researcher on the study, said zebrafish are one of the best models for revealing how human pathways work.
"They share a similar genetic structure to humans, they are inexpensive, and the doses of the drug or bacteria can be put directly in the water and absorbed by the fish,” Davis said.
In the study, the researchers added doses of Lactobacillus plantarum, a specific probiotic, into half of the zebrafish tanks. They then introduced a series of stressors, overcrowding and decreased water, to all of the fish tanks.
Ericsson said, “You can assess how a fish is feeling based on where they are swimming in the tank.”
He said when the zebrafish are happy they swim around the top of the tank but when they are stressed or anxious then tend to hang around the bottom.
The zebrafish administered with the probiotics showed a better response to stress. Ericsson said these findings could lead to a better understanding of how probiotics affect humans.
The researchers have started new studies they hope will isolate the mechanisms at work and put them one step closer to clinical trials.