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A ‘chicken or the egg’ situation: More research needed on whether gut dysbiosis affects the brain or vice versa

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

More research on whether gut dysbiosis affects the brain or vice versa needed

Related tags neurodegeneration gut-brain axis microbiome

Research on the gut-brain axis is growing, but it is still a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation when it comes to whether it is gut dysbiosis that affects brain health or vice versa, says the guest on the latest episode of our Nutrachampion podcast.

Dr Chakrapani P. S., honorary director at the Centre for NeuroScience and assistant professor at the Department of Biotechnology, Cochin University of Science and Technology, specialises in the research of neuroscience and the gut-brain axis.

One of his recent clinical trials​ assessed the effects of encapsulated curcumin versus unformulated standard curcumin and placebo among older adults with mild to moderate dementia over six months. 

Findings showed that supplementation of curcumin encapsulated within fenugreek mucilage was superior in improving cognitive and locomotive functions as compared to the unformulated standard curcumin.

This is because the encapsulation technology allows curcumin to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and reach the target sites.

Aside from curcumin, omega-3, resveratrol, and vitamin D are some of the ingredients that have exhibited neuroprotective effects, said Dr Chakrapani. However, like curcumin, resveratrol is also low in bioavailability, and he is also studying how the fenugreek encapsulation technology could increase its bioavailability.

Some of the mechanisms of action of the above ingredients include their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.

The gut-brain axis is another area that scientists have been trying to uncover.

So far, it is understood that as much as 90 per cent of serotonin is released from the gut, in contrary to the assumption that it is mostly release from the brain. 

“Currently, we know that most of the neuro related issues could be directly connected to gut health, but we’ve always thought that most of the neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are mostly located in the brain.

“But now we know that 90 per cent of serotonin is released from the gut and 50 per cent of dopamine is released from the gut.

“Gut microbes play an important role in the release of these neurotransmitters, and also, these microbes release various metabolites that can influence the brain, that’s why the gut is now called the second brain,” ​the alumni of University of Freiburg said.

However, it is still unclear whether it is the gut that affects the brain or the other way round, and this is considered as a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation.

In models studying brain damage that occurred due to accidents or Parkinson’s Disease, it is found that gut dysbiosis could be seen.

“Due to brain changes or brain injury, alterations in the gut [microbiome] could happen. Similarly, when there is gut dysbiosis, it influences the brain. So, we don't know where the starting point is happening,” ​he said.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

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