The University of Oxford research – backed by prebiotic supplier Clasado Biosciences – also suggested a beneficial effect of the non-digestible galacto-oligosaccharides on brain health and emotions via the immune system and a key serotonin receptor in the brain.
Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter and about 90% of the body's serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. Conditions like depression and anxiety disorder are often treated with drugs that alter serotonin levels.
Previous research had suggested that altering intestinal microbiota with prebiotics and probiotics could reduce inflammatory response, alter brain chemistry and modulate anxiety behaviour in both rodents and humans.
However, the neuro-immune and behavioural effects of prebiotics on ‘sickness behaviour’ had not yet been explored.
Writing in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, the Oxford researchers said: “Our data suggest a potential role for prebiotics in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders where anxiety and neuroinflammation are prominent clinical features.”