Obesity-Related Microbes Cause Neurocognitive Impairments

So remember when Justin Timberlake brought sexy back (again) with all that microbiota-gut-brain axis talk?

Fire JTI’m gonna pretend like you all said yes ;) lol But just in case…

Towards the end, we threw around some pretty important questions about the gut microbiome, obesity and mental illness…

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  • Depression and anxiety are associated with a dysregulation of the HPA axis
  • There’s a direct link between our gut microbiome and HPA reactivity
  • Our gut microbiome is shaped by a number of factors including diet, metabolism, antibiotic treatment and stress
  • Antibiotic use is on the rise, stress is out of control and the average diet consists of an increasing amount of genetically-modified and sugar-enriched foods

So, doesn’t it make sense that what we’re eating may be shaping our gut bacteria in a way that triggers an effect on our HPA axis which, in turn, results in symptoms of anxiety and depression?

And wouldn’t that explain the strangely coincidental, simultaneous rise of our nation’s obesity epidemic and mental health crisis?

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And then, a little bit later, Jimi Hendrix and Justin Bieber broke down the link between gluten, depression and the gut microbiome…

Dont Recall

*Sigh* lol :) …No worries, you can get all caught up here!

But long story short: Those posts pretty much fueled my love affair with gut microbiome research. (That and Jessica Richman, co-founder and CEO of uBiome, retweeted one of our posts and started following Prayers and Apples on Twitter!!! #majorfangirlmoment #noshame ♥)

Need a life

So imagine how pumped I was when I read this new study!

Ok, so here’s the part where I feel really guilty – because I *should* re-word the press release pasted below – but, if you’ve been following Prayers and Apples on Insta – you know my new Florida move is in full swing and I’ve kinda got my hands full with job hunting, gator watching and hanging out at the beach…

Insta Gators

I know – rough life , right? ;)

But hey – in my defense, I am about to start formal work on our #HowDoYouKnow campaign (more on that in a later post!).

So, as long as you guys don’t mind too much, I’m gonna indulge in a lil cut-and-paste action… but I promise to cover everything more in depth soon! :) This study was just way too cool to wait to share!

Ok, so here’s the official press release…

…courtesy of Elsevier! :)

High-fat diets have long been known to increase the risk for medical problems, including heart disease and stroke, but there is growing concern that diets high in fat might also increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

A new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry raises the possibility that a high-fat diet produces changes in health and behavior, in part, by changing the mix of bacteria in the gut, also known as the gut microbiome.

The human microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms, many of which reside in the intestinal tract. These microbiota are essential for normal physiological functioning. However, research has suggested that alterations in the microbiome may underlie the host’s susceptibility to illness, including neuropsychiatric impairment.

This led researchers at Louisiana State University to test whether an obesity-related microbiome alters behavior and cognition even in the absence of obesity.

Non-obese adult mice were conventionally housed and maintained on a normal diet, but received a transplant of gut microbiota from donor mice that had been fed either a high-fat diet or control diet. The recipient mice were then evaluated for changes in behavior and cognition.

The animals who received the microbiota shaped by a high-fat diet showed multiple disruptions in behavior, including increased anxiety, impaired memory, and repetitive behaviors. Further, they showed many detrimental effects in the body, including increased intestinal permeability and markers of inflammation. Signs of inflammation in the brain were also evident and may have contributed to the behavioral changes.

“This paper suggests that high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracks,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

Indeed, these findings provide evidence that diet-induced changes to the gut microbiome are sufficient to alter brain function even in the absence of obesity. This is consistent with prior research, which has established an association between numerous psychiatric conditions and gastrointestinal symptoms, but unfortunately, the mechanisms by which gut microbiota affect behavior are still not well understood.

Further research is necessary, but these findings suggest that the gut microbiome has the eventual potential to serve as a therapeutic target for neuropsychiatric disorders.

It’s just like what we talked about in our earlier posts, right?!

Gotta love the gut microbiome! :)

Sorry again for just throwing all this together, but I promise to check back in soon! Still trying to get all organized down here in the sunshine state! :) But seriously, how cool is that study?!

xo Jessica ♥


Bruce-Keller, A.J., Salbaum, J.M., Luo, M., Blanchard, E., Taylor, C.M., Welsh, D.A. & Berthoud, H-R. (2015). Obese-Type Gut Microbiota Induce Neurobehavioral Changes in the Absence of Obesity. Biological Psychiatry, 77(7): 607–15.

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