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Dr Kathy Martyn

Are probiotics the new weapon to beat depression?

Research at the University of Brighton suggests that pre/probiotics can help as an adjunct to therapeutic treatment in the management of depression.

Dr Kathy Martyn, Registered Nutritionist and Principal Lecturer at the university, has conducted a systematic review in collaboration with Sanjay Noonan, a medical student at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and Elaine Macaninch, a Registered Dietitian with Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust. This research published in the July edition of BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health has already attracted considerable media attention.

In seven studies where pre/probiotics – which help ‘good’ bacteria in the GI tract to flourish – were given to patients results showed a “demonstrated significant improvement” in treating anxiety and/or depression.

Dr Martyn said, the results called for more robust research to elucidate the mechanisms of pre/probiotics via the microbiome and to determine whether they could be useful adjuncts in the management of common mental health disorders (CMDs).

She said: “The focus of any additional research should be to clarify which individual strains and/or combinations of bacteria have beneficial effects. Furthermore, it may be beneficial to consider whether specific patient groups may experience more significant health benefits from pre/probiotic therapy due to their own idiosyncratic health states.

“It is important to recognise that this data should contribute to only one area of our understanding of and treatment of depression. The clinical approach towards any CMD should be multifaceted and patient-specific for the greatest chance of being useful. Encouraging and empowering patients to incorporate their diet into their holistic treatment approach to combat depression should be a factor clinician consider.”

Kerry Burnett • July 13, 2020

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