Relationship between gut bacteria and depressive feelings found

erasmus mc
Friends eating lunch in diner
Dan Gold

New research shows that there is a relationship between certain bacteria in your gut and having depressive feelings. Follow-up research is needed to find out whether you get depressed from those bacteria, or whether the bacteria in your body come because you have depressive feelings. In Studio Erasmus, Robert Kraaij and André Uitterlinden (Erasmus MC) talk about their large-scale study.

Results Amsterdam and Rotterdam compared

The Erasmus MC scientists conducted a large-scale study. The stools of thousands of Rotterdammers and Amsterdam residents were examined to find out which bacteria were present in the intestines. At the same time, depressive feelings were measured via questionnaires.

In both the Rotterdam and Amsterdam groups, a link was found between 14 groups of gut bacteria and depressive feelings. "Then you know it's right. This kind of comparative research is done too little in science. We picked it up very competently," Uitterlinden says.

Changing bacterial composition through a pill

Unfortunately, little is still known about the cause and effect of the link. But what could you do if you know that a certain bacteria leads to depressive feelings? "It is usually not one bacteria, but a combination of different bacteria. The interventions you can do relate to dietary change. But antibiotics, prebiotics and probiotics could possibly also be the solution," explains researcher Robert Kraaij.

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André Uitterlinden and Robert Kraaij at Studio Erasmus
Arie Kers

With probiotics, you administer live bacteria to someone. In the future, this could be done via a pill containing a number of bacteria that can change the composition of bacteria in the human body. In this way, diseases could be prevented.

Responsible and varied diet

Taking probiotics en masse for a healthy gut is not recommended, according to André Uitterlinden. "I would rather look at a responsible and varied diet. That is much better for your gut. Research shows that this will give your gut an optimal composition that only contains good bacteria."

Uitterlinden reveals that this research is not the holy grail in the search for the final solution to depression. "Not only the bacteria in our gut affect depressive feelings. Our genetic predisposition also plays a role and a person's environmental factors. This is just more difficult to measure. Our DNA testing can be done quickly, well and at low cost. But the bacteria, unfortunately, are not the only cause."

Robert Kraaij and André Uitterlinden at Studio Erasmus

The relationship between the gut and the brain - Studio Erasmus

Prof. dr. A.G. (André) Uitterlinden, PhD
R. (Robert) Kraaij, PhD
More information

Read more about this large-scale study at Amazing Erasmus MC (in Dutch)

Find out when the next Studio Erasmus takes place:

Listen to the Studio Erasmus podcast via Spotify.

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