Can specific dietary supplements slow the deterioration of the brain as a result of ageing? 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 one 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.
Joint Programming Initiative 'A Healthy Diet for A Healthy Life'
This is the first time that research is done on the effect of probiotics and tryptophan on social functioning in the elderly. Particularly in this group, a good social cognition is important for maintaining good health and vitality. If the outcomes are positive, supplementation with tryptophan and probiotics may contribute to a healthier ageing process.
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 eight 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.
The project is carried out jointly by:
- Lorenza Colzato (Institute for Psychological Research, Leiden)
- Peter Kirsch (Central Institute for Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany)
- Martin Reuter (University of Bonn, Germany)
- Ana Rodríguez Moratinos (University of Extremadura, Spain)
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