Recent research has revealed that the microbiome that lives in the digestive tract may play a significant role in depression.
The microbiome is made up of trillions of microbial cells found inside the human body, the bulk of which are found in the gut. Inside these cells are genes that impact human health, including mental health and brain function.
In recent years, initial studies on animals reported that patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) had an altered gut microbiome composition compared to healthy controls. The findings from these studies show either an increase in potentially harmful bacterial groups or a reduction of beneficial bacterial genera. Yet this new research presents strong evidence for the existence of a gut-brain connection that can heavily impact mental health. This study was recently conducted as part of the Flemish Gut Flora Project.
The study aimed to show how the microbiome correlates with host quality of life and depression.
They found that in their cohort of 1,054 participants, depressed individuals were more likely than their healthy counterparts to fall into a certain enterotype. This enterotype is a classification based on the bacteriological ecosystems in the gut microbiome. The enterotype they singled out is a low abundance of the bacterial genus Faecalibacterium, which is associated with a higher quality of life. Furthermore, they found Dialister and Coprococcus bacteria depleted in depressed individuals.
The study also identified 56 gut–brain modules, which are considered the metabolic function pathways in the gut that potentially influence the brain. They compared these gut-brain modules to clinically depressed people and found several to be altered.
The results highlighted the role of the microbiome in MDD, and confirmed that the gut microbiome is altered in depressed patients.
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