Newswise — University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers have discovered how Lactobacillus, a bacterium found in fermented foods and yogurt, helps the body manage stress and may help prevent depression and anxiety. The findings open the door to new therapies to treat anxiety, depression and other mental-health conditions.
The new research from UVA’s Alban Gaultier, Ph.D., and collaborators is notable because it pinpoints the role of Lactobacillus, separating it out from all the other microorganisms that naturally live in and on our bodies. These organisms are collectively known as the microbiota, and scientists have increasingly sought to target them to battle disease and improve our health. UVA’s new research represents a major step forward in that effort, providing scientists an innovative new approach to understand the role of individual microbes that could facilitate the development of new treatments and cures for a wide variety of diseases, both mental and physical.
“Our discovery illuminates how gut-resident Lactobacillus influences mood disorders, by tuning the immune system,” said Gaultier, of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience, the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG Center) and the TransUniversity Microbiome Initiative. “Our research could pave the way towards discovering much-needed therapeutics for anxiety and depression.”
The Microbiota and Depression
Our guts are naturally home to countless bacteria, fungi, and viruses. There are more microorganisms living in and on us than there are cells in our bodies. That may sound disgusting, even alarming, but scientists have increasingly realized that these tiny organisms and their endless interactions are critical to our immune systems’ health, our mental health, and many other facets of our well-being. Disruptions of the microbiota, whether from illness, poor diet, or other causes, are known to contribute to many diseases and even help cancer spread. So, researchers have been hugely excited in recent years about the potential to battle diseases by targeting the microbiota.
Early attempts to manipulate the gut flora with beneficial bacteria, called probiotics, have produced mixed results. A big part of the problem has been the sheer complexity of the microbiome. It’s estimated that there are 39 trillion microorganisms inside each of us, so trying to understand what specific bacteria or fungi do – much less how they interact with all the other microorganisms and their host – can be like trying to count grains of sand on the beach.
Gaultier and his team took an innovative approach to hone in on Lactobacilli in specific. Prior research from Gaultier’s lab suggested that the bacteria could reverse depression in lab mice – a hugely promising finding. But the researchers needed to understand how.
“We were aware from our prior research that Lactobacillus was beneficial in improving mood disorders and was lost following psychological stress, but the underlying reasons remained unclear, primarily due to the technical challenges associated with studying the microbiome.”
Gaultier and his team decided to continue their depression research using a collection of bacteria, known as Altered Schaedler Flora, which includes two strains of Lactobacillus and six other bacterial strains. With this rarely used bacterial community, the team was able to create mice both with and without Lactobacillus,circumventing the need for antibiotics.
Sure enough, the Altered Schaedler Flora produced exciting results. Gaultier and his colleagues were able to explain exactly how Lactobacilli influence behavior, and how a lack of the bacteria can worsen depression and anxiety. Lactobacilli in the family Lactobaccillacea, they found, maintain the levels of an immune mediator called interferon gamma that regulates the body’s response to stress and helps stave off depression.
Armed with this information, researchers are poised to develop new ways to prevent and treat depression and other mental-health conditions in which Lactobacillus plays an important role. For example, patients struggling with (or at risk for) depression might one day take specially formulated probiotic supplements that will optimize their levels of helpful Lactobacillus.
“With these results in hand, we have new tools to optimize the development of probiotics, which should speed up discoveries for novel therapies,” said researcher Andrea R. Merchak, Ph.D. “Most importantly, we can now explore how maintaining a healthy level of Lactobacillus and/or interferon gamma could be investigated to prevent and treat anxiety and depression.”
The UVA scientists have published their findings in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity. The research team consisted of Merchak, Samuel Wachamo, Lucille C. Brown, Alisha Thakur, Brett Moreau, Ryan M. Brown, Courtney Rivet-Noor, Tula Raghavan and Gaultier. The researchers have no financial interest in the work.
The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grants T32 NS115657, T32 GM008136, F31 AI174782, T32 GM007267 and T32 GM148379; the Owens Family Foundation; the Miller Family; the UVA TransUniversity Microbiome Initiative; and the UVA Presidential Fellowship in Neuroscience.
UVA’s TransUniversity Microbiome Initiative, or TUMI, serves as the central hub for the University’s cutting-edge microbiome research. The initiative aims to expand our understanding of the microbiome to better treat and prevent disease.
Exploring the Healthiest Communities in the United States: California Counties Shine Bright
Discover how California’s Marin County leads the healthiest U.S. communities, boasting high life expectancy and low obesity rates in a recent study.
A recent study by MarketWatch has unveiled a list of the healthiest communities in the United States, with California counties claiming top spots. Marin County, nestled across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, emerged as the healthiest county, boasting a remarkable life expectancy of 85, a lower-than-average adult obesity rate, and a mere 5 percent of residents without health insurance.
The study evaluated 576 U.S. counties using 14 key metrics, including food insecurity, healthcare access, life expectancy, health insurance coverage, and environmental factors like water and air quality. Western states dominated the top 10 list, with Colorado, Hawaii, and Montana also showcasing exemplary county health profiles.
The findings emphasized a correlation between community health and wealth, with affluent areas exhibiting lower rates of food insecurity and higher levels of health insurance coverage. The presence of nature parks in many of the healthiest counties underscored the positive impact of green spaces on well-being, aligning with scientific research on the subject.
However, the study also shed light on disparities, highlighting that residents in the unhealthiest counties face challenges such as limited access to grocery stores, higher rates of food insecurity, and inadequate primary care services. Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, was identified as the least healthy county due to high uninsured rates and poor environmental quality.
In California, 37 out of 58 counties were ranked, with Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties clinching top positions. The data revealed a stark contrast in median incomes between the healthiest and unhealthiest counties, with Marin County boasting a median income well above the national average.
This comprehensive analysis serves as a valuable resource for policymakers and healthcare professionals striving to address disparities and promote well-being across communities. It underscores the importance of factors such as access to healthcare, environmental quality, and socioeconomic status in shaping overall community health outcomes.
Empoderar a los afroamericanos con el aprendizaje de habilidades que salvan vidas
(Family Features) En el espíritu del Mes de la Historia Afroamericana, usted puede empoderarse, educar a otros y mejorar la salud cardíaca de su comunidad convirtiéndose en un defensor de la RCP (reanimación cardiopulmonar) y del DEA (desfibrilador externo automático). Compartir la importancia de estas habilidades que salvan vidas puede ayudar a crear un futuro más saludable para las generaciones futuras.
Según la American Heart Association, los afroamericanos tienen la mayor incidencia de paro cardíaco fuera del hospital y tienen muchas menos probabilidades de sobrevivir. El paro cardíaco en las colonias negros se asocia con bajas tasas de tratamiento y supervivencia; los estudios han demostrado tasas más bajas tanto de RCP como de uso de DEA por parte de transeúntes en estas colonias.
En Estados Unidos, las desigualdades en salud son diferencias sistemáticas en el estado sanitario de diferentes grupos demográficos y, a menudo, son el resultado de barreras como el racismo, la pobreza, la discriminación, la falta de vivienda asequible, educación de calidad y acceso a la atención médica.
El Mes de la Historia Afroamericana sirve como telón de fondo relevante para la campaña Nation of Lifesavers de la American Heart Association, cuyo objetivo es alinear los principios de empoderamiento, participación comunitaria y equidad en salud. Al celebrar la abundante herencia y la resiliencia de la comunidad afroamericana, también se puede reconocer la importancia de fomentar la educación sobre la salud cardíaca y construir un legado de salud.
Puede defender la importancia de la capacitación en RCP y DEA compartiendo esta importante información en su comunidad.
Debido a que alrededor del 70% de los paros cardíacos fuera del entorno hospitalario ocurren en el hogar, aprender RCP puede salvar la vida de alguien que conoce y ama. De hecho, si bien el 90% de las personas que sufren un paro cardíaco fuera de un entorno hospitalario no sobreviven, se pueden duplicar o triplicar las posibilidades de supervivencia de una víctima realizando RCP de inmediato. Consta de dos sencillos pasos:
- Llamar al 9-1-1 (o enviar a alguien para que lo haga).
- Presionar fuerte y rápido en el centro del pecho.
Un DEA es un dispositivo portátil y liviano que administra una descarga eléctrica a través del pecho hasta el corazón cuando detecta un ritmo anormal y luego cambia el ritmo a la normalidad. Más del 15% de los paros cardíacos fuera de un entorno hospitalario ocurren en lugares públicos, lo que significa que los DEA de acceso público y la capacitación comunitaria desempeñan un papel importante en la desfibrilación temprana. La RCP combinada con el uso de un DEA ofrece las mejores posibilidades de salvar una vida.
Las ambulancias, los vehículos policiales, muchos camiones de bomberos y otros vehículos de primera respuesta contienen DEA. Además, se pueden encontrar en áreas públicas, como recintos deportivos, centros comerciales, aeropuertos y aviones, empresas, centros de convenciones, hoteles, escuelas, piscinas y consultorios médicos. Por lo general, puede buscar cerca de ascensores, cafeterías, áreas de recepción y en las paredes de los pasillos principales donde se reúne un gran número de personas.
Siga estos pasos para utilizar un DEA:
- Encienda el DEA y siga las indicaciones de voz.
- Retire toda la ropa que cubra el pecho. Si es necesario, seque el pecho.
- Retire el protector de las almohadillas y colóquelas en el pecho desnudo de la persona siguiendo la ilustración de las almohadillas.
- Enchufe el conector de las almohadillas al DEA, si es necesario.
- El DEA verificará si la persona necesita una descarga y le indicará cuándo administrarla. Mientras el DEA analiza, asegúrese de que nadie toque a la persona.
- Reanude la RCP si no es necesaria ninguna descarga. Si es necesaria una descarga, asegúrese de que nadie toque a la persona y presione el botón de “descarga” y luego reanude inmediatamente la RCP.
- Continúe la RCP hasta que llegue el personal de emergencia.
Obtenga más información y descubra cómo empoderarse a sí mismo y a su comunidad en heart.org/blackhistorymonth.
Foto cortesía de Shutterstock
American Heart Association
4 Tips to Get High Cholesterol Under Control
(Family Features) Heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but many people aren’t aware they may be at elevated risk. More than 71 million adults in the United States have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and nearly 50 million don’t have it under control, which puts them at higher risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.
What’s more, nearly one-third (31%) of U.S. adults are not aware that having high cholesterol puts them at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, according to the findings of a recent study conducted by The Harris Poll commissioned by Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. The poll also revealed some inconsistent understanding about treatment options available for those with uncontrolled cholesterol. Fully 3 in 10 (30%) of those taking statins believe statins are the only LDL lowering treatment available for those with high LDL cholesterol.
“In auto racing, the red flag means danger on the track, stopping the race immediately,” said Dr. JoAnne Foody, chief medical officer at Esperion. “We are launching a patient education program, ‘Wave the Red Flag,’ to encourage people with uncontrolled high cholesterol to have their levels checked right away and discuss appropriate treatment options with their health care provider.”
If your high cholesterol is uncontrolled, understanding how you can achieve greater control can reduce your risk for serious health conditions, including potentially life-threatening cardiovascular events.
Consider these tips to get high cholesterol under control.
Talk with your doctor. Speaking with your physician is an important first step to managing any health condition. Your doctor can help you understand the severity of your condition and whether a treatment plan should be moderate or aggressive.
Check your progress. Keeping tabs on your cholesterol can help you and your health care team gauge whether your treatment plan is working. If you don’t have heart disease, you may not need to check as frequently, but your doctor can recommend the appropriate intervals to help manage your cholesterol most effectively.
Take medications as prescribed. Statins are the medications most often recommended by treatment guidelines for the management of blood cholesterol, and nearly one-third (30%) of those taking statins believe they are the only cholesterol-lowering treatment available, according to the survey. However, even with maximal statin therapy, some patients with chronic disease do not meet recommended LDL cholesterol levels. Taking your medications regularly and as instructed helps your doctor determine whether additional therapies – including non-statin treatments – could be useful to help manage your blood cholesterol.
Make lifestyle adjustments. Your diet plays a major role in lowering LDL cholesterol. Limiting fatty foods, especially those that are high in saturated and trans fats, is key. Monitoring your overall diet and exercising can also help reduce your risk of high cholesterol. Even if you don’t have high cholesterol, adopting more cholesterol-friendly habits can help prevent your levels from rising to unhealthy levels in the future.
To find additional information about managing your high cholesterol, talk to your health care provider and visit WaveTheRedFlag.info.
Fast Facts About Cholesterol
What is cholesterol?
The liver creates a fat-like waxy substance called cholesterol. It serves useful purposes for the body, including producing hormones and helping digest food.
How do you get high cholesterol?
The human body makes all the cholesterol it needs naturally, so any cholesterol you eat is cholesterol you don’t need. However, it can be difficult to avoid because you can find dietary cholesterol in many common foods, including meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy. Other non-dietary contributing factors include health conditions like obesity and diabetes, as well as family history and advancing age.
What is a normal cholesterol level?
An average optimal level of LDL cholesterol is about 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
An average optimal level of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol is at least 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women. HDL cholesterol can actually lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Are there symptoms of high cholesterol?
Unlike many health conditions, there are rarely any symptoms that your cholesterol is high. That’s what makes regular screening so important.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock
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