Probi study finds subjects’ brains worked better under stress with probiotic

Probi has published a new study on its LPHEAL9 ingredient, which it plans to formally launch at the SupplySide West trade show.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

September 29, 2023

3 Min Read

 Probi researchers found cognition improvements with a probiotic ingredient when given to moderately stressed adults. 

The new study was published recently in the journal Nutrients. It is part of an ongoing research effort to better understand the ingredient, which the company has designated as Lactiplantibacillus plantarum HEAL9, or LPHEAL9. Probi has branded the ingredient on its website as Defendum

The most recent study was the work of a Probi employee and researchers from the University of Lund in Sweden. 

Suite of studies backing ingredient 

The ongoing research effort is examining the effect of the ingredient via the gut-brain axis, which the researchers said “involves bidirectional communication via neural, endocrine and immune pathways.” 

Previous placebo-controlled studies have looked at subjects with high levels of stress or who suffered from depression. 

One study was a one-time intervention design that used a cohort of individuals with high overall stress who had been subjected to a validated research tool called the Trier Social Stress Test. This involves an interview before a panel, which is interrupted by a surprise arithmetic test that subjects must complete with the interviewers present and passively observing. 

That study found LPHEAL9 reduced blood markers of stress, although it didn’t alter direct measures, such as heart rate and blood pressure. 

Another study looked at 90 patients with mild to moderate depression who took a placebo or LPHEAL9 along with S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)for six weeks. The researchers found the combination “significantly improved symptoms of depression, anxiety, and cognitive and somatic components.”  

In addition, they found the effects were independent of the severity of the symptoms. In other words, subjects with milder depression reaped benefits, too, unlike most pharmaceuticals, which generally are ineffective for milder forms of depression and only serve to blunt the most severe symptoms. 

The most recent study was conducted by Atlantia Clinical Trials in Cork, Ireland, with a group of subjects who had only moderate stress. 

The subjects were men and women between 21 and 52 years of age who were judged to have moderate stress, as measured with the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale tool. After initially screening more than 300 potential participants, the pool was narrowed to 132 subjects, who were divided equally between test and placebo groups. In the end, 57 members of the placebo group and 56 members of the supplementation group completed the 12-week study. 

The supplementation group received a daily capsule with 10 billion CFU of the test probiotic, while the control group took an equivalent placebo. 

Learning, memory improved 

Subjects’ stress levels were measured via questionnaires and blood analyses, and their quality of sleep was assessed, too. 

To measure cognition and memory, the subjects completed several different commercially available tests at baseline and at the study conclusion. 

The researchers concluded that, for mildly stressed people (which could include a broad swath of potential consumers), the product provided distinct benefits. 

“The study showed a significant improvement in learning and working memory after the consumption of LPHEAL9 compared to placebo, potentially by ameliorating aspects of mood and improving sleep,” the authors concluded. “These effects may be linked to the stabilization of inflammatory biomarkers and to a significantly lower awakening level of cortisol in the probiotic group compared to the baseline.” 

Going to market 

The scientific substantiation is now strong enough to launch the product in the North American market, said Probi CEO Anita Johansen. 

“Mental health and wellness is a field with significant growth potential. This complementary study demonstrates that our strain HEAL9 has a strong clinically proven effect in the gut-brain area and boosts our confidence ahead of the official launch of our new product at SupplySide West in Las Vegas in October." Johansen said in a company statement

About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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