CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Eating yogurt that contains probiotics may help you feel less depressed, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine conducted a study on mice by feeding them a probiotic bacteria found in live-culture yogurts called Lactobacillus. The team found that the rodents’ depression-like symptoms were largely reversed by consuming the yogurt.
Scientists have long known that stress plays a large role in one’s mood. The role of one’s gut microbiome, which contains thousands of bacterial organisms, however, had not been sufficiently explored on this same dimension.
With 7% of Americans suffering from depression at any given time, the study’s implications are enormous.
For their experiment, the researchers examined the composition of the mice’s microbiomes before and after being subjected to stress, finding that Lactobacillus had been lost after the mice had experienced stress. Concomitant depression also resulted.
As soon as the mice were fed probiotic yogurt, their mood reverted back to a more stable state.
“A single strain of Lactobacillus is able to influence mood,” says lead researcher Dr. Alban Gaultier in a university release.
They verified the phenomenon they had observed by examining how kynurenine— a chemical that drives depression— had also increased when Lactobacillus had diminished.
“This is the most consistent change we’ve seen across different experiments and different settings we call microbiome profiles,” notes Ioana Marin, a research student.
While the study still must be conducted on humans to determine whether the same results can be achieved, its breakthrough findings show promise. One potential issue with the research is the fact that it’s much harder to measure depression in mice than it is in humans.
Gaultier plans to first examine the effects of Lactobacillus on those with multiple sclerosis— sufferers also commonly experience depression.
“The big hope for this kind of research is that we won’t need to bother with complex drugs and side effects when we can just play with the microbiome,” says Gaultier. “It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health – and your mood.”
In the meantime, no clinically depressed individuals should solely eat yogurt in lieu of taking medication, the researchers warn.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.