Eating Yogurt May Ease Symptoms of Depression

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, stress or anxiety, here’s a simple solution suggested by the US researchers to curb symptoms of depression naturally – eat yogurt!

Investigators at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine have shown in their study, conducted on mice, that symptoms of depression and anxiety can be alleviated by eating yogurt rich in lactobacillus, a probiotic bacterial genus found in live cultures yogurt.

Researchers hope the findings could help in the development of new strategies for treating psychiatric conditions.

“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,” explained senior researcher Alban Gaultier, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience at UVA School of Medicine. “It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health—and your mood.”

In the study, the researchers have learned about a specific mechanism for how the lactobacillus microorganisms alter mood, providing a direct link between the health of the gut microbiota and mental health.

For the study, Dr. Gaultier and his team exposed mice to stressful condition and analysed their composition of the gut microbiome before and after the animals were subjected to depression. The team found that the major change that the mice experienced was the loss of lactobacillus, which triggered the onset of depression symptoms.

Interestingly, feeding the mice lactobacillus bacterial genus with their diet returned them to almost normal. “A single strain of lactobacillus, is able to influence mood,” Gaultier observed.

When the researchers looked for the reason why loss of lactobacillus in the gut caused depression, they found that the decrease of lactobacillus in the gut resulted in increase in level of a metabolite in the blood called kynurenine, which caused depression symptoms set in.

“This is the most consistent change we’ve seen across different experiments and different settings we call microbiome profiles,” remarked lead study author Ioana Marin, a doctoral candidate in Dr. Gaultier’s laboratory. “This is a consistent change. We see Lactobacillus levels correlate directly with the behavior of these mice.”

Inspired with their current discovery, the researchers now plan to begin studying the effect of Lactobacillus in humans.

They detailed their study findings in an article entitled “Microbiota Alteration Is Associated with the Development of Stress-Induced Despair Behavior” which appears in the journal Scientific Reports.