The Gut Microbiome and Diet in Psychiatry: Focus on Depression

Sarah Dash; Gerard Clarke; Michael Berk; Felice N. Jacka

Disclosures

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015;28(1):1-6. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Purpose of review With depressive disorders the leading source of disability globally, the identification of new targets for prevention and management is imperative. A rapidly emerging field of research suggests that the microbiome–gut–brain axis is of substantial relevance to mood and behaviour. Similarly, unhealthy diet has recently emerged as a significant correlate of and risk factor for depression. This review provides evidence for the gut microbiota as a key factor mediating the link between diet and depressive illness.

Recent findings The development of new technologies is affording a better understanding of how diet influences gut microbiota composition and activity and how this may, in turn, influence depressive illness. New interventions are also suggesting the possible utility of pre and probiotic formulations and fermented food in influencing mental health.

Summary Although in its early stages, the emerging field of research focused on the human microbiome suggests an important role for the gut microbiota in influencing brain development, behaviour and mood in humans. The recognition that the gut microbiota interacts bidirectionally with other environmental risk factors, such as diet and stress, suggests promise in the development of interventions targeting the gut microbiota for the prevention and treatment of common mental health disorders.

Introduction

The naturally occurring 'commensal' bacteria that exist symbiotically with our bodies are estimated to number 100 trillion in the human gut alone.[1] The gut microbiome – the community of bacteria and their genetic material living in the gut – is often referred to as a virtual organ.[2,3] Much of the early microbiota research was subject to the limitations of culturing technology, restricting our understanding of bacterial composition and functioning. More recently, the development and use of new metagenomic and molecular technologies has afforded detailed insights into the important role of microbiota in human health and disease.[4–6] These new insights have, in turn, pointed to the pathophysiological role of the gut microbiota in diverse disorders from atopy to depression. The recognition that the gut microbiota interacts with other environmental risk factors, such as stress and diet, suggests promise in the development of interventions targeting the gut microbiota for the prevention and treatment of disease. In this review, we address the evidence linking the gut microbiome to the recently established associations between dietary intake in humans and the prevalence of or risk for depressive illness[25,7,8] and highlight new possibilities and implications for the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders arising from this evidence.

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