Pre-clinical study shows prebiotics affect brain chemistry
28 January 2014
Prebiotic manufacturer Clasado and the Department of Psychiatry,
University of Oxford have announced the results of pre-clinical
research that demonstrates prebiotics affect the relationship
between the gut and the brain. This collaborative research will
complement and serve as a precursor to current human trials.
The research showed for the first time that the modulation of gut
microbiota by prebiotics can lead to changes in brain biochemistry.
The study is published in the journal Neurochemistry
International. The researchers hope that the findings could
offer insight into the potential treatment of cognitive dysfunction,
emotional disturbances in neuropsychiatric illness and age related
In the trial, rats were fed either FOS (fructo-oligosaccahride)
or second generation GOS (galacto-oligosaccharide) prebiotics (Bimuno).
In both cases significant effects on the neuronal biochemistry of
the rats were demonstrated. These effects are believed to have
resulted from changes in the gut microbiota including an increase in
bifidobacteria facilitated via the feeding of prebiotics.
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), an important molecule
involved in the development and maintenance of neural cells,
increased in the brain after repeated ingestion of prebiotics,
compared with rats that did not receive the prebiotics.
Additionally, components of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)
receptor, which have a critical role in brain development, learning
and memory, also increased in the rat brain after just two weeks of
daily prebiotic feedings.
Second generation GOS intake, which induced the greatest
elevation of bifidobacteria compared to FOS and controls led to an
increase of NR1 and NR2A subunits in the hypocampus and NR1 subunits
and D-serine in the frontal cortex. The administration of FOS, which
caused a relatively minor proliferation of bifidobacteria, increased
the levels of NR1 in the hypocampus only. However, FOS
administration also raised the concentration of hippocampal BDNF, an
effect previously observed with probiotics.
Further studies will determine whether the increase in NMDA and
BDNF were as a result of factors other than only microbiota. This is
because there is some evidence suggesting that 2nd generation
prebiotics such as Bimuno may also interact directly with the gut.
Further research is also needed to test whether the changes seen in
the rat brain translate to improved neural function and behaviour,
and whether prebiotics can benefit human brain health.
“The study has provided valuable insights into the complex
interactions between the gut and brain,” said Dr Phil Burnet, head
researcher, University Department of Psychiatry, University of
Oxford. “Our results have also provided the basis for further
research in humans.”
“There is a growing body of evidence linking the gut to various
aspects of brain health,” said Geoff Collins, Head of Consumer
Marketing, Clasado. “We are hopeful that this new research, the
first of its kind using a prebiotic, will pave the way for further
discoveries and potential brain associated health applications for
Human clinical trials have recently been conducted by Clasado and
The Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. Enrolment for
this study was completed in Q4, 2012 with the study itself having
been completed at the end of 2013. The results of the study are due
to be published in the coming months.
Prebiotic technology could prove to be a useful contribution to
the management and treatment of depressive disorders, particularly
as unlike some existing drug therapies it is free from unwanted side
effects. Clasado hopes to demonstrate that the addition of specific
prebiotics to the diet of an ageing population could hold real
benefits in ensuring an improved quality of life.
Clasado says it is seeking partnerships on an ongoing basis with
Research Centres, Institutions and Companies who have an interest in