Scientists researching the human gastrointestinal tract’s microorganisms continue to find significant connections between the gut and patients’ overall health.
The gut microbiome, which is the name for these microorganisms, has inspired many studies as researchers continue to understand their impact on everything from brain disorders to joint pain.
While initial studies linking the gut microbiome to cognitive function showed connections, those studies used animal experiments and small clinical studies. On a larger scale, scientists examining the gut microbiome’s relationship to cognitive function recruited middle-aged participants from another study in four U.S. metropolitan areas.
Previous studies looking at connections between the gut microbiome and cognitive function found links for short-chain fatty acids produced in the microbiota to influence cognitive health.
In animal experiments, rodents with reduced diversity in their gut microbiome showed cognitive defects, including reduced memory, impaired working memory, and changes in their brain.
Small-scale human studies also showed associations between the gut microbiome and cognition, including improvements when comparing controls to people treated with probiotics to increase their gut microbiome.
The Newest Results
In scientists’ newest study, they analyzed the cognitive function and microbiomes of 597 participants between 48 and 60 years old, with a mean age of 55. The study focused on participants’ gut microbiome diversity in connection with six cognitive tests.
The studies concluded a significant association between participants’ microbial composition and cognitive function. All of the conclusions drawn were in line with the previous small-scale human studies and animal studies.
While researchers carefully note that this study needs replication in larger human samples, some of the initial findings support short-chain fatty acids playing an instrumental role in regulating the interaction between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis.
Short-chain fatty acids are one of the main byproducts of the microbiome and may have neuroactive properties.
Animal studies found short-chain fatty acids protecting the brain against vascular dementia and cognitive impairment. Recent results support a strong connection between nutrition, microbiome composition, and cognitive function.