A dose of probiotics a day may effectively help improve the memory and thinking abilities of people with Alzheimer's disease, a new international study revealed.

Scientists from Iran discovered that patients with Alzheimer's disease who drank milk enriched with beneficial live bacteria experienced significant improvement in their cognitive functioning.

Mahmoud Salami, a professor from Kashan University and senior author of the new report, said the study is the first to show that probiotics provide benefits in cognitive improvement.

The Benefits Of Probiotics

Probiotics are yeasts or live bacteria with several known positive effects on the body, including protection against menopause-like bone loss, as well as improvement of mental health.

In the new study, Salami and his colleagues gave 52 participants yogurt and milk with probiotics every day for 12 weeks.

The participants, who were aged 60 to 95, were divided into two groups: one group was given 200 milliliters (6.76 fluid ounces) of normal milk daily, while the remaining participants drank the same amount of milk enriched with Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus fermentum.

Researchers measured the changes in the participants' brain function test scores before and after undergoing the yogurt treatment.

They used the Mini-Mental State Examination scale, in which the participants completed several tasks such as naming objects, copying a picture and counting backward.

In the end, researchers found that those who drank the milk with probiotics showed significant improvements in their memory and thinking abilities. These patients' average MMSE score increased from 8.7 to 10.6 out of 30, while the scores of those who drank the normal milk dropped from 8.5 to 8.0.

Metabolic Changes

Meanwhile, when the researchers assessed blood samples taken from the patients, Salami and his team found that some of those who consumed probiotics had significant improvements.

These include lower levels of very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lower levels of triglycerides as well as reduced levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker.

Additionally, those who received probiotics exhibited a significant decrease in two measures of insulin resistance and the function of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas known as HOMA-B and HOMA-IR.

The authors of the study explained that the benefits of probiotics may be linked to the metabolic changes that they trigger. They also emphasized that all the study participants remained cognitively impaired, but the findings of the report offer hope that probiotics might result to cognitive improvements.

"We plan to look at these mechanisms in greater detail in our next study," added Salami.

Details of the new study are published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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