Gut bacteria affect brain function

For years, those of us who react to foods have been told that there is no realistic mechanism - thus implying that it is not real.

But research just published provides sound evidence that changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function. The study, conducted at the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, and the Ahmanson­Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA, appears in the current online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology.

In an early proof-of-concept study of healthy women, they found that women who regularly consumed beneficial bacteria known as probiotics through yogurt showed altered brain function, both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.

By demonstrating the brain effects of probiotics, the study also raises the question of whether repeated courses of antibiotics can affect the brain, as some have speculated. Antibiotics are used extensively in neonatal intensive care units and in childhood respiratory tract infections, and such suppression of the normal microbiota may have long-term consequences on brain development.

What is obvious to food intolerant people, of course, is that preservative food additives, put into food specifically to kill bacteria, will be having effects on health, behaviour and learning by altering the balance of gut bacteria. How long will it take for good research on this?