Dietary supplements and age-related brain deterioration

Posted: 8 December 2015 | Victoria White | No comments yet

Researchers are study the effect of the amino acid tryptophan and of a specifically developed multispecies probiotic on age-related brain deterioration…

Researchers are to investigate if specific dietary supplements slow age-related deterioration of the brain.


Dr Lorenza Colzato, researcher at the Institute for Psychological Research at the University of Leiden, will investigate this together with some of her fellow European researchers. For this, the scientists have been awarded a subsidy of just under 1 million Euros by the Joint Programming Initiative ‘A Healthy Diet for A Healthy Life’ (JPI HDHL).

The researchers will study various aspects including the effect of the amino acid tryptophan and of a specifically developed multispecies probiotic. They want to verify whether administering these supplements has a positive effect on the social cognition of the elderly (the way they view themselves and others). This has to do with selecting, interpreting, remembering and using information in order to assess matters and make decisions. Social cognition usually deteriorates with age, and the research team wants to know whether this process can be slowed down.

First research to look at effects of probiotics and tryptophan on social functioning in the elderly

Tryptophan is one of the twenty amino acids that naturally occur in the human body. Tryptophan plays an important role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter (a substance in the brain) that is linked to mood, appetite, sleep and emotion, among other things. Tryptophan can be found in foods such as bananas, milk, chickpeas and chocolate. Some dietary supplements contain tryptophan.

Probiotics are live bacteria that can have a positive effect on the health of the host. The probiotic that will be studied is Ecologic BARRIER by Winclove Probiotics in Amsterdam. It consists of 8 different types of bacteria. Previous research by the University of Leiden with this probiotic has shown that it can reduce the sensitivity for depression, which is probably caused by the probiotic stimulating the production of serotonin.

This is the first time that research will be done on the effect of probiotics and tryptophan on social functioning in the elderly. A good social cognition is important for maintaining good health and vitality in this particular age group. If the outcomes are positive, supplementation with tryptophan and probiotics may contribute to a healthier ageing process.

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