DUBLIN ― The foods that can lift your mood aren’t necessarily the ones you might think. Now, researchers have developed a “psychobiotic” diet capable of reducing stress over the course of a month in a healthy person.
What effects can diet have on mental health? Researchers from APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland have developed a so-called “psychobiotic” diet, which is rich in prebiotic and fermented foods. This diet was found to decrease perceived levels of stress in healthy volunteers. The scientists’ findings are published in the journal, Molecular Psychiatry.
To carry out their research, the specialists selected 45 healthy volunteers, aged 18 to 59 years. Their usual diet included little fibre.
Among this panel, 24 individuals followed a “psychobiotic” diet for four weeks. Each day, these volunteers were asked to consume six to eight servings of fruit and vegetables rich in prebiotic fibre (onions, leeks, apples, cabbage), five to eight servings of grains, and two to three servings of fermented foods (kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut). On a weekly basis, participants were asked to consume three to four servings of legumes. The other volunteers followed a diet based on classic dietary recommendations for healthy eating.
During the study, the specialists collected data on stress levels and mental health using questionnaires. In addition, they analysed stool samples to observe changes in certain chemicals produced by gut microbes.
The researchers found that the “psychobiotic” diet resulted in a 32 per cent reduction in perceived stress among participants. In addition, the experts noted an improvement in sleep quality. Differences were also noted in gut microbiota.
The diet’s positive effects on mental health rely on the relationship between the gut and the brain. “Using microbiota-targeted diets to positively modulate gut-brain communication holds possibilities for the reduction of stress and stress-associated disorders, but additional research is warranted to investigate underlying mechanisms, including the role of the microbiota,” the researchers conclude.
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