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Probiotics May Boost Alzheimer’s Patients’ Memory, Researchers Say


Probiotics May Boost Alzheimer’s Patients’ Memory

By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD

Nov. 14, 2016 — People with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to improve their memory and thinking skills by taking probiotics, researchers say.

A new study found that a daily dose of Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria, taken over 12 weeks, was enough to make moderate improvements in patients’ scores for various mental tasks.

Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods, such as yogurt, fermented soy products, sauerkraut, and kefir. They are also available in the form of high-dose probiotic “shot” drinks, freeze-dried powders, capsules, and tablets.

These “friendly” bacteria can help balance the levels of microorganisms in the intestines and drive down numbers of harmful bacteria.

Research into probiotics has shown they can help protect against certain conditions, including diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and tooth decay. However, scientists have also pondered whether they might also boost brain function. For instance, trials with mice have shown that probiotics improve learning and memory and also reduce anxiety and depression.

The latest study by a team from Kashan University of Medical Sciences and Islamic Azad University in Iran claims to be the first to demonstrate this effect with people.

Their small clinical trial lasted 12 weeks and involved 52 men and women aged 60 to 95 who had Alzheimer’s disease.

The group was split into two, with one-half receiving 200 milliliters (about 7 ounces) of milk each day that had been enriched with four types of probiotics. These were Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

People in the second group were just given plain milk.

All the participants completed a test that measures different mental abilities, including a person’s memory, attention, and language skills. The highest attainable score in the test is 30.

The researchers found that during the study, the average score among the volunteers taking the probiotics rose from 8.7 to 10.6. In contrast, those who had been given ordinary milk saw a fall in their score from 8.5 to 8.0.

They acknowledge that all the participants, no matter which group they were in, scored poorly for memory and thinking skills. But they say the difference in results between the two groups was significant.

The researchers say they think that metabolic changes might be responsible for the difference in the groups. For instance, those who were given probiotics also showed improvements in insulin metabolism and lipid profiles.

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