Scientists and researchers are looking at whether prebiotics (special types of carbohydrate that serve as a selective food for good bacteria in the gut) could be used to treat anxiety or depression, or if the supplements improve patients’ reaction to psychiatric drugs, said study author Philip Burnet, who is a researcher at the University of Oxford.
In a recently published study, 45 healthy people aged from 18 to 45 took either a prebiotic or a placebo, each day for three weeks. At the end of the study, they completed a variety of computer tests to assess how they processed emotional information, such as negative and positive words. During one of the tests, people who took the prebiotic paid less attention to negative information, and more attention to positive information, compared with those who took a placebo.
The research also found that people who took the prebiotics had lower levels of cortisol in their saliva when they woke up in the morning, compared with people who took a placebo. While it is still early days the idea that taking a prebiotic could improve mental health in humans is an intriguing one. Further research is planned using this approach in individuals who are suffering a range of mental health issues.