Sunday, November 24, 2013

NPR, Greek Yoghurt & Better Brains

If you didn’t hear it, there was a recent National Public Radio story on “How the bacteria in your gut may affect your brain.” Here’s a link:

The show reports that “Doctors have long had clues that there may be a connection between what's going on in our heads and what's going on in other parts of our bodies.”

One of the hosts, Steve Inskeep reports that it “Turns out you really can have a gut feeling about something, because evidence has been mounting that those microbes in the body may be important for our emotional health as well as our physical health.”

They went on to play an audio interview between NPR’s Rob Stein and Dr. Emeran Mayer, a Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. Here’s the bit that caught my attention:

“MAYER: It really happens rarely in science that you sort of stumble into an area that all of a sudden opens up this completely new frontier.
STEIN: A frontier that could help explain that old idea of gut feelings. And Mayer thinks he already has the first good clues this may be true, after analyzing about 60 volunteers like Pria.
MAYER: We found that the type of community you have, of microbes you have in your gut, is reflected in some ways in some basic architectural aspects of the brain.
STEIN: The brain connections of people whose microbes are dominated by one species of bacteria look different than those of people whose microbes are dominated by another species. That suggests that the specific mix of microbes in our guts helps determine what kinds of brains we have, how our brain circuits develop, how they're wired.
MAYER: The brain circuits obviously determine certain ways of how we perceive the world and react to the world outside of us.
STEIN: This could help explain why some people are born with brains that don't work the way they're supposed to, causing problems like autism, anxiety, depression.
MAYER: It opens up a completely new way of looking at brain function and health and disease. I think that's, you know, kind of a revolutionary concept”

For me the research findings suggest that good microbes in your gut make for better brain function. And, tantalizingly, improving those microbes may also improve brain function.

And, since Greek Yoghurt is a tasty source of good microbes, and I'm part Greek, I will continue to use it instead of sour cream wherever I can.

Image credit: <a href=''>72soul / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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