There is increasing interest in the relationship between the gut and the brain, and microbiota are fast gaining a reputation in regulating mental health. In fact, two out of three consumers across the globe already recognise the importance of their gut on mood, and are firm believers their digestive health regulates their mental wellbeing and stress levels.
While the mechanisms by which anxiety and depression are regulated are not well understood, scientists now know that thanks to the gut-brain axis, important mood parameters can be influenced via microbiota modulation. And as diet is the major driver of gut microbiota composition, changes can be achieved using functional foods such as prebiotics.
With mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression costing health services in excess of $1 trillion every year, using a diet-approach to positively influence microbiota is an attractive proposition.
To better understand this cause-and-effect relationship, a team of scientists from the Beneo-Institute and the University of Reading conducted the first human intervention study using prebiotic dietary fibre oligofructose (OF) and the human milk oligosaccharide 2’fucosyllactose (2’FL).
The five-week study specifically looked at the effect of the chicory root fibre OF and 2’FL - alone and in combination - on intestinal colonisation and their ability to reduce anxiety and depression.
The 92 subjects chosen for the study were healthy adults, suffering from mild to moderate levels of anxiety and depression. Using a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled methodology, the subjects were split into four groups and given daily doses of a placebo, OF and 2’FL.
The results showed those participants taking OF on its own or in combination with 2’FL experienced significant increases in beneficial gut bacteria - including Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides, Roseburia and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii - compared to the control group. Additionally, they also significantly outperformed the control group in improvements in several mood state parameters, including depression (BDI Beck Depression Inventory), anxiety (STAI State Trait Anxiety Inventory) and positive and negative feelings (PANAS Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short Form).
“Thanks to this study, an important piece of scientific evidence has been contributed to the fascinating science of the gut-brain-axis,” said Dr Stephen Theis, head of Nutrition Science for Beneo.
“The results add to the growing body of evidence showing that the composition of gut microbiota and resulting metabolites impact mood state. The findings also demonstrate that targeted influence with prebiotics may be a viable way to improve mood.
“It is notable that oligofructose has once again been shown to have a significant effect on beneficial microbiota and is an essential contributor to the beneficial effects on gut microbiota and mood parameters when combined with 2’fucosyllactose.”
Chicory root fibre
Beneo’s Orafti Oligofructose is natural, non-GMO and clean label. Chicory root fibres are derived from the plant via a gentle hot water extraction method, unlike some synthetic fibres.
Due to their technical properties, chicory root fibres can be used in a wide range of food and beverage applications including baked goods and snacks, even baby food, according to national legislations.
As the only proven plant-based prebiotics, inulin and oligofructose support a healthy gut microbiota and selectively promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut. They are preferred food for good microorganisms, helping them to selectively multiply and grow in numbers.
Inulin-type fructans and 2’fucosyllactose alter both microbial composition and appear to alleviate stress-induced mood state in a working population compared to placebo (maltodextrin): the EFFICAD Trial, a randomized, controlled trial
Authors: Jackson PPJ, Wijeyeskera A, Williams CM, et al
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2023) 118, 5, ISSN 0002-9165
Authors: Chisholm Dan, Sween, Kim, Sheehan Peter, et al.
The Lancet Psychiatry (2016) 3 (5), S. 415-424