We all know probiotics are good for the gut, but can they also help the mind? A new study in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that consumption of probiotics—live bacteria and yeasts found in yogurt, pickles and other foods that can help benefit your digestive tract—“positively affects cognitive function” of those with Alzheimer’s. Researchers in Iran analyzed 60 Alzheimer’s patients aged 60 to 95, serving half of them plain milk and the other half milk containing probiotic supplements (lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, bifidobacterium bifidum and lactobacillus fermentum, should that mean anything to you) over a 12-week period. At the end of the trial, the researchers found that those who had consumed probiotics scored higher on a cognitive exam than those who hadn’t been served probiotics.
But wait a minute, you might be saying to yourself. How is it possible that probiotics—which enter your body through the digestive tract—can have any effect on cognition? Well, the study points out, the answer to that question may lie in something called the microbiome-gut-brain axis, which, as you may have guessed—though probably not—is the word for the interaction between the microorganisms in your body, your central nervous system and your gastrointestinal tract. It’s all connected, apparently.
"These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer's and possibly other neurological disorders," Mahmoud Salami, an author of the study from the University of Kashan in Iran, told the Telegraph. "We plan to look at these mechanisms in greater detail in our next study."
The study is one of many to have come out recently, examining the potential effects of breakfast foods on cognition. One recent study, published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, suggested that coffee may reduce the risk of dementia in older women, while another found that bacon, which often contains nitrates, may cause migraines. This study out of Iran is, according to the researchers’ best knowledge of the scientific literature, the first to examine whether probiotics have any effect on cognitive function. So it’s probably too early to say whether the connection between cognition and probiotic consumption is concrete. But it is a promising sign—and one more reason, if you didn’t have enough already, to eat yogurt