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Psychobiotics: Microbiome to edge out pharma for depression and psychiatric help?

July 14, 2022
Life sciences

Probiotics may help treat depressive symptoms by targeting the microbiota-gut-brain-axis, a new study has revealed. The findings illustrate the potential of psychobiotics – a growing market segment targeting mental health by influencing gut bacteria.

“Our data imply that an add-on probiotic treatment improves depressive symptoms along with changes in the gut microbiota and brain. It emphasizes the potential of microbiota-related treatment approaches as accessible, pragmatic and non-stigmatizing therapies in major depressive disorder,” the researchers note.

NutritionInsight speaks to industry on the potential of psychobiotics and what the future holds for the market, as well as the impact it may have on consumers.

“A growing body of clinical evidence suggests that probiotics may have the potential to be explored as pharmaceutical alternatives for various digestive and non-digestive disorders,” highlights Silvi Siddhu, senior global marketing and technical sales manager for nutraceuticals.

“Urgent need” for alternatives
Two-thirds of depressed patients do not respond adequately to initial antidepressant medication, and up to 30% of treatment-resistant patients experience residual symptoms when receiving optimized treatments, notes the study published in Translational Psychiatry.

“The development of novel and more efficient treatment approaches is therefore urgently needed.”

As part of the study, 47 participants were involved. Cohorts who did not take a placebo took a Vivomixx probiotic supplement containing 900 billion CFU/day in addition to their usual depression treatment for 31 days.

“Probiotic effects were only significant in a subsample with high compliance and accentuated in the follow-up after eight weeks, indicating a remission rate of 55% in the probiotics group compared to a 40% remission rate in the placebo group,” the study reveals.

Promising avenue for psychiatry?
Long-active in the space, Lallemand Health Solutions touts Cerebiome, a proprietary combination of L. helveticus Rosell-52 and B. longum Rosell-175, as “the most documented psychobiotic in the world.”

“Current state of research suggests that targeting the microbiome-gut-brain axis represents a promising avenue for neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry. It may soon be possible to improve a patient’s quality of life using non-invasive and natural methods such as probiotics, prebiotics and adjustments to diet,” explains Lucie Lingrand, product manager at Lallemand Health Solutions.

The probiotic is supported by five clinical studies and over ten mechanistic studies, highlighting eight mechanisms of action on the gut-brain axis. Cerebiome aims to alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms of stress and feelings of anxiety, promoting a healthy mood in times of occasional stress and helping to reduce stress-related gut discomfort.

A deeper understanding of the effect of probiotics on human health will be critical in determining their scope and efficacy in prevention and management of health and disease.

A pragmatic solution?
According to Siddhu, the gut-brain axis is one of the most studied bidirectional interaction between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system, which enables the gut ecosystem to influence mental, emotional and cognitive health.

“Any disruption in the host-microbiome relationship or the gut-microbiota dysbiosis has been linked to various physical and mental disorders. The ability of probiotics to modulate the gut ecosystem and manage dysbiosis makes them a pragmatic solution to manage many of these disorders, as reported by a large number of human intervention studies.”

Currently, the most frequently studied areas are related to stress and anxiety, which are the main areas requested by food and dietary supplement consumers, Lingrand explains. Other studied areas include mental health, cognition, attention and focus, neurological health and function.

Alternatives on the rise
Industry has long eyed the potential of the gut-brain axis for mood, which is now seeing increased collaboration with researchers across the globe.

“Both academia and private industry are investing in this research and working collaboratively,” Lingrand underscores.

Beyond the microbiome, however, interest in other alternatives, such as psilocybin – found in magic mushrooms – is leading to increasing funding to better understand the impact on mental health.

Studies have flagged psilocybin may have therapeutic effects on the brain and could help people suffering from depression. Microdosing psilocybin may also improve mood, depression, stress and anxiety levels, research has revealed.

By Andria Kades


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