There's been an explosion of research over the past few years about how important our gut health is and how helpful probiotics can be in establishing and maintaining proper levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. While some of the advantages of good gut health seem logical, such as protection against irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, other benefits, like protection against eczema, colds, allergies, and even tooth decay, are more surprising. Now, new research is showing that a healthy gut can even benefit your brain and improve the cognitive function of Alzheimer's patients.
Although previous research has shown that probiotics can improve learning and memory in mice and rats, few studies had been conducted to determine the effects of the beneficial bacteria on human cognition. To begin the investigation, researchers at Kashan University of Medical Sciences and Islamic Azad University in Iran decided to conduct a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial of Alzheimer's patients between the ages of 60 and 95. Half of the participants received 200 ml of milk a day that contained four strands of probiotic bacteria, while the rest received regular milk.
At the beginning and end of the 12-week study period, the researchers had the patients take the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). This test includes tasks like recalling the date, counting backward from 100 by 7, recognizing objects, repeating phrases, and copying pictures. The maximum score on the test is 30. After 12 weeks, the average score in the control group actually dropped from 8.5 to 8.0. But the group receiving the probiotics showed a noticeable increase, from 8.7 to 10.6! While a score of 10.6 on the MMSE still indicates severe cognitive impairment, the fact that the patients did show improvement, particularly after a relatively short time, is very encouraging.
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The patients also experienced some other health benefits as a result of taking the probiotics, including lower levels of triglycerides, very low density lipoproteins, and high-sensitivity C-reactive proteins. Measures of insulin resistance decreased as well. The researchers are very interested in investigating further how probiotics cause metabolic changes and how these changes can benefit patients with Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders.
If you want to protect your brain — as well as benefit nearly every other aspect of your health — taking a probiotic every day is a great place to start. And if you have a loved one who is suffering from cognitive decline, see if he or she will take a probiotic as well. While it won't completely reverse the decline, you may notice some small but encouraging improvements. I recommend Advanced Probiotic Formula. It contains a total of six probiotic strains to flood your gut with 3.5 billion friendly bacteria every day. That's quite an army of helpers for your gut health and your brain!
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD