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Bacteria and Mood

Posted Jan 26 2010 5:10am

Carl Willat pointed me to this press release about some remarkable research:

Treatment of mice with a ‘friendly’ bacteria, normally found in the soil, altered their behavior in a way similar to that produced by antidepressant drugs, reports research published in the latest issue of Neuroscience. . . . 

Interest in the project arose after human cancer patients being treated with the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae unexpectedly reported increases in their quality of life.

I believe we need a substantial daily intake of microbes (in our food) to be healthy. The obvious microbe-produced improvements are in immune function and digestion. But this study and the research on which it’s based suggest we also need microbes to make our nervous systems work properly.

When I started eating lots of fermented food I did notice an improvement in mood. Not dramatic, but clear. On a trip to Boston last year, I thought: I’ll go without fermented foods to see what it’s like. But after a day or so without them, I felt so bad I stopped the experiment. A friend of mine says something similar, that kombucha improves his mood in a way that doesn’t seem to be due to caffeine.

I asked Carl how he learned about a three-year-old press release. (The research article — gated version here — appeared in 2007.) “Neil Gaiman tweeted about it,” he said.

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