Evidence is emerging that probiotics, those living organisms found in yogurt and other fermented foods, can do more than improve digestive health. Preliminary research has found that some of these bacteria may also have antidepressant or anxiolytic effects.
A recent literature review in the journal Biological Psychiatry examined the role “psychobiotics” (probiotics that can improve mental health) may have in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. For several years now, researchers have considered how depression and other conditions affect the gut and vice versa. Past studies have shown that people with depression have altered GI microflora, and we all know how stress and anxiety can cause a host of tummy troubles.
The paper’s authors theorize that psychiatric effects of psychobiotics are related to their action on inflammatory cytokines, the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, and the gut-brain connection. They point out that some strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two commonly found probiotics, secrete gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a vital neurotransmitter that has been found to be dysfunctional in people suffering from depression and anxiety. They also found that oral ingestion of certain probiotics can produce serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
While there are no placebo-controlled trials of psychobiotics as treatments for mental illnesses, they are extremely safe and there is a rich evidence base for their use for overall good health. The full study can be found at Dinan TG et al, Biol Psychiatry 2013;74(10):720-726.
More Teens Smoking Flavored Little Cigars
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than two out of every five middle and high school students who smoke either use flavored little cigars or flavored cigarettes. The report, based on data gathered from the National Youth Tobacco Survey and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, also found that close to 60% of teens who smoke flavored little cigars are not considering quitting, compared to 49% of other cigar smokers.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 prohibited the use of flavors, except menthol, in cigarettes. Manufacturers have found a way around this regulation with “little cigars,” which look like cigarettes and are available alongside them in stores. These come in a variety of candy and fruit flavorings. In addition to offering flavors that young people enjoy, little cigars are taxed at a lower rate at the state level than cigarettes, making them more affordable for youths.
According to the report, sales of little cigars increased 240 percent from 1997 to 2007. These little cigars cause as many health problems as cigarettes, flavored or otherwise, according to cdc director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, the director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking, says little cigars contain the same ingredients as cigarettes, making them in no way a safe alternative to cigarettes.
For the full report, see King BA et al, J Adolesc Health 2013;online ahead of print or visit http://bit.ly/1ivEt8I.