These 3 Gut Bacteria Could Contribute To Dementia Risk, New Study Finds
The concept of the gut-brain axis sure sounds complicated, and it kind of is. But new science continues to demystify it piece by piece. Case in point: One recent study1 identified an association between the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and three types of gut bacteria. Its findings may help us proactively guard against the progression of dementia by way of the gut.
What the researchers found.
In this study, scientists at Nagoya University in Japan analyzed the gut bacteria of people living with Parkinson’s disease. Some participants also had dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).
Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits in the brain that affect thinking, memory, and overall cognitive function. A certain subset of people with Parkison’s develop DLB, but doctors are not yet able to predict who will and why.
Researchers found three bacteria, in particular, to be associated with DLB. They found that patients with DLB had an increase in the genera Collinsella and Ruminococcus and a decrease in the genus Bifidobacterium. This finding could prove helpful for the prevention and treatment of Parkinson’s disease and the associated DLB.
"The presence of intestinal bacteria unique to DLB may explain why some patients develop Parkinson's disease and others develop DLB first," Dr. Kinji Ohno, M.D., Ph.D., a lead researcher on the study, said in a press release. "Normalizing the abnormal bacteria shared between DLB and Parkinson's disease may delay the development of both diseases."
"Improving the gut microbiota is a stepping stone in the treatment of dementia," Ohno continued. "Our findings may pave the way for the discovery of new and completely different therapeutics."
Tending to your brain and your biome.
This study joins a growing field of research on the gut-brain axis and its effect on long-term health and brain function. A disrupted microbiome can cause upset stomach, bloating, gas, and constipation, as well as contribute to more serious diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (though there is a lot left to learn about the link between gut bacteria and cognitive decline).
Sure, you can't avoid stress entirely or commit to getting perfect sleep every night for the rest of your life, but there are plenty of small things you can do. These small things will add up to big changes when it comes to supporting your microbiome—and ultimately your gut-brain axis.
Here are four habits you can start implementing today to begin improving the balance of your gut bacteria.
- Take an effective probiotic daily: Not all probiotics are created equal. Be sure to look for one that contains bacterial strains that have been studied for their effects on the gut. The probiotics on this expert-vetted list all have research behind them and are effective at promoting a healthy gut environment. Learn more of the ins and outs of picking a high-quality probiotic here.
- Add bananas to your grocery list: Bananas are high in prebiotics, which are probiotics’ often-forgotten precursors. They help prime your gut so good bacteria can flourish and do their job. If bananas aren’t your thing, try reaching for cashews, oats, or flaxseeds instead.
- Automate your sleep schedule: Better sleep improves our overall well-being, including our gut health3. Pick a time to wake up and go to bed every morning and night to ensure more consistent rest. Setting a nighttime alarm can be helpful here!
- Switch one of those cocktails for water. If you drink alcohol, make sure you’re swapping every other drink for water. It can help prevent a hangover, keep you hydrated, and help you drink a little less, which your gut will appreciate.
Researchers at Nagoya University in Japan were able to isolate three bacterial genera associated with the onset of dementia in Parkinson’s patients. This adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the link between our microbiomes, brain health, and longevity.
Jenny is a San Francisco-based mbg health contributor, content designer, and climate & sustainability communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. An avid open-water swimmer, Jenny has worked for healthy living and nutrition brands like Sun Basket, Gather Around Nutrition, and Territory Foods.