Thousands of people swear by probiotics to boost their health – but people might be wasting their time if they already have a good diet.
And it’s possible that probiotics can even harm brain performance when taken alongside a balanced diet, according to a surprising new study.
Researchers from UNSW Medicine studied the effects of a commonly used probiotic on rats – and found that in rats who ate junk food, they had very positive effects.
Probiotics positively changed the bacterial make-up in their digestive tract and benefited brain function, preventing spatial memory loss.
But in rats on a better diet, the probiotics had little impact on microbial diversity and actually impaired recognition memory.
‘If you’re eating really badly then probiotics might be helpful. But if you’re already eating healthily, they may not be that beneficial,’ says Professor Margaret Morris, Head of Pharmacology at UNSW.
‘We were surprised to find that, in the rats we were feeding a healthy diet, the probiotics actually resulted in some memory impairment with regards to object recognition.
‘Although this study is looking at rats, I think the main takeaway message is that we need to exercise caution when we recommend that people take probiotics.
‘It’s very hard for us to say that they are definitively good or bad.’