The first study explores the microbiota-gut-brain axis (Study 1
). The microbiota-gut-brain axis is the two directional communication between the brain and the gut microbiome. This axis has been shown to be very important in mood, mental health and other brain associated disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The recent study from the APC Microbiome Ireland
(APC) SFI Research Centre in Cork has shown the potential of kefir, a fermented milk drink, to change specific aspects of the microbiota-gut-brain axis. The experiment demonstrated that by feeding mice with 2 different milk kefirs, mice showed improvements in several key aspects. A key feature of depression is a reduction in reward-seeking behaviour. Mice fed with one of these kefirs showed an increase in reward-seeking behaviour. These results are promising in terms of finding new treatments for depression. The same kefir also reduced the stress levels of the mice. A second kefir improved the mice’s contextual memory and was also shown to stimulate the immune system. What is most interesting from the consumers point of view, is that both kefirs were able to provide benefits, but both had exclusive effects. However, both kefirs did change the gut microbiome of the mice, increasing the capacity of their microbiomes to produce GABA, a chemical that is important for mental health.