CORK, Ireland – In 2021, 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to increase by 22% by 2025. Globally, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple to approximately 150 million by 2050 due to the aging of the population. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, new research indicates that bacteria in our gut could ward off the disease.
In a recent study, memory problems were reversed after old mice were given “friendly” bacteria. This research suggests that yogurts that stimulate the gut may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which opens the door to the development of probiotics that treat or even prevent dementia.
“He’s a potential game changer. We have now established that the microbiome can be harnessed to reverse age-related brain deterioration. We are also seeing evidence of improved learning ability and cognitive function, ”says corresponding author Professor John Cryan, University College Cork in Ireland, by South West News Service.
A staggering 100,000 billion microorganisms live in the human gut, be they good or bad. The immune system is affected by the balance. The Irish research team showed that laboratory rodents had increased memory and cognitive function by introducing specific species.
The immune system changes associated with aging were reversed with fecal transplants from younger mice, including faster deciphering of maze patterns and improved memory afterwards. They were also less prone to anxiety, another common symptom of dementia. Scans then showed that their brains had been rejuvenated, containing metabolites and gene regulation patterns resembling those of adolescents.
“It must be said that we do not advocate fecal transplants for people who want to rejuvenate their brain. Instead, these studies point to a future where the focus will be on food or bacterial interventions targeted to the microbiota. They will promote optimal gut health and immunity to keep the brain young and healthy, ”explains Cryan.
The study suggests that such therapies could combat cognitive decline. This adds to the evidence that probiotics sold in supermarkets as dietary supplements stimulate focus, decision making, and understanding.
“The microorganisms that live on and in the human body have an impact on health and vary with age. Friendly bacteria have beneficial effects on the metabolic and immune systems. They can be gradually replaced by bacteria that lead to chronic inflammation, metabolic dysfunction and disease, ”notes Cryan. “Much work is required to translate the results for clinical use in humans. We know that microorganisms in the gut shape local immunity, but can also affect brain aging and increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Now there is a growing appreciation for the importance of microbes in the gut to all aspects of physiology and medicine. “
Previous research has shown that a daily dose of probiotics for 12 weeks can produce significant improvement in elderly patients.
“This research further demonstrates the importance of the gut microbiome in many aspects of health – and in particular in the brain / gut axis where brain function can be positively influenced. The study opens up possibilities in the future to modulate the gut microbiota as a therapeutic target to influence brain health, ”concludes Professor Paul Ross, director of APC Microbiome Ireland at the university.
This study is published in Natural aging.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.