Your GUT is the link between mental wellness and physical health

A couple of weeks ago (Aug 28th), I gave a presentation at the 28th International Conference for Functional Foods – about how targeted functional foods and dietary supplements can help to improve BOTH mental wellness and physical health.

We used “depression” and “obesity” as our target conditions and we influenced both via the gut.

You can see a pre-recorded version of the presentation here =

You can see the “live” version of the presentation here =

Here is the Abstract and Introduction to our previously published paper:

Modulation of Gut-Brain Axis Improves Microbiome, Metabolism, and Mood

 Functional Foods in Health and Disease 2020; 10(1): 37-54. DOI: https:/

There is a close bidirectional relationship between overweight/obesity and depression, which may be largely modified through the microbiome and the gut-brain axis. Previous research has shown targeted weight loss effects and anti-depressive benefits of diets high in fiber and phy- tonutrients and low in sugar and processed foods. Thus, our objective was to determine changes in parameters common to both obesity and depression (e.g., microbiome balance, metabolic bi- omarkers, and psychological mood state) following a coordinated supplementation regimen com- bining probiotics, prebiotics, and phytonutrients (“phytobiotics”).

Methods: Thirty-three (33) healthy subjects participated in a 6-week supplementation trial (Amare “Project b3”) containing a targeted blend of probiotics, prebiotics, and phytobiotics. Microbiome balance was assessed in fecal samples using a novel PCR-based analysis (BiomeTracker) that has previously compared favorably to 16S sequencing. Biomarkers, including blood lipids, glucose, cortisol, and butyrate kinase, were assessed as indicators of effects on cardiovascular, inflamma- tory, and energy metabolism. Psychological mood state was assessed using the validated Profile of Mood States survey (POMS) to generate scores for Global Mood State and six sub-scales (De- pression, Tension, Fatigue, Anger, Confusion, and Vigor).

Results: Following supplementation, there was a significant increase in populations of “good” bacteria (+8% Bifidobacterium, +33% Lactobacillus, +62% S. Thermophilus, +90% Akkermansia) as well as bacterial ratios associated with a healthier “obesity-resistant” metabolism (+6% composite score, -11% Firmicutes, +6% Bacteroidetes, -14% F/B ratio). Metabolites associated with stress and glycemic control improved post-supplementation (-11% cortisol; +89% butyrate kinase, -6% glucose), as did body fat (-2%) and blood lipids (-8% total cholesterol, -5% LDL, +3% HDL, -23% triglycerides, -7% TC/HDL). Psychological indices were significantly improved post-supplementation for both positive (+17% Global Mood; +23% Vigor) and negative mood states (-38% Depression; -41% Tension; -42% Fatigue; -31% Confusion; -39% Anger).

Conclusions: These results demonstrate the close relationship between microbiome balance, sys- temic metabolism, and psychological parameters – and the utility of targeted supplementation to optimize gut-brain-axis balance for both improved metabolism and enhanced mental wellness.

Keywords: Obesity; Depression; Anxiety; Stress; Probiotics; Prebiotics; Diet; Supplement


Globally, more than 1.9 billion people struggle with overweight, while depression affects over 350 million people [1]. More than a decade has passed since the initial discovery of the close link between the gut microbiota and obesity [2, 3]. One of the predominant mechanisms underlying the microbiome/obesity relationship is the metabolic endotoxemia hypothesis, whereby an impaired or permeable gut barrier allows translocation of endotoxins from the gut lumen into systemic cir- culation, thereby leading to low-grade inflammation and metabolic disorders including obesity and diabetes.The gut microbiome is also closely linked to psychological mood states, including de- pression and anxiety, through multiple communication pathways, including neurotransmitters, the immune system, and the inflammatory cascade via the gut-brain axis [4]. Indeed, a close bi-direc- tional relationship between overweight and depression has repeatedly been established, whereby being overweight increases the risk of developing depression, and having depression increases the risk of becoming overweight [5, 6]. In addition, antidepressant medications often lead to weight gain [7], and dietary restriction for weight loss often exacerbates depression [8].

Probiotics are live micro-organisms that confer health benefits to the host [9], whereas prebi- otics are fibers that selectively improve the growth of beneficial gut microbes [10]. An emerging class of functional foods, termed “psychobiotics,” encompasses probiotics (bacteria), prebiotics (fibers), and phytobiotics (phytonutrients) that additionally confer psychological benefits related to mood and cognition [11]. A number of recent clinical trials have shown promising weight man- agement benefits of probiotics [12-15] and prebiotics [16, 17], as well as reductions in anxiety and depression with specific probiotic strains [18] and prebiotic fibers [19].

Because many prior studies in this area have examined “diseased” subjects (e.g., those with diagnosed “gut problems” such as irritable bowel syndrome, “metabolic problems” such as obesity or diabetes, or “psychological problems” such as major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder), this study aimed to determine the holistic benefits of a multi-ingredient functional food on microbiome balance, metabolic markers, and mood state in a population of normal weight,“healthy-stressed” adults.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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