The human gut is colonized by more than 100 trillion microbiotas, and these bacteria can provide benefits to the individuals. We have written many times about the positive effects of probiotic supplements, but a new study (1) has looked to see the effects of a daily probiotic supplementation on cognitive measures in competitive footballers. The researchers took measures of cognitive function, and brain wave activities at the beginning (before supplementing), and then after 4 and 8 weeks. One group supplemented with Lactobacillus Casei Shirota strain (LcS) and the other supplemented with a placebo.

Probiotics have previously been shown to have positive effects on anxiety and depression

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The Results

After 4 weeks, the footballers that had been supplementing with the probiotics had significantly increased theta and delta power from brain wave activities measures.

What Does That Mean?

Well, theta oscillation is one of the slowest brain waves where the frequency was around 4–8 Hz that could detect when an individual felt more relaxed, in a sleeping state or while meditating. This indicated that the football players in the probiotic group were more relaxed with low stress and anxiety.

On the flip side, high delta responses are often associated with cognitive process such as attention, problem solving, perception, and signal tracking. What was even more interesting was that those players with anxiety and depression tended to show slower reaction times in the function tests due to the dysfunction of the process to communicate accurate information accompanied by anxiety and depression.

How does it work?

We know more and more about the gut and the bacteria that reside there, and then all of the different roles they might play. Gut microbiota are functionally diverse and play a role in many basic metabolisms including carbohydrate metabolism, immune system activities, and fibre degradation. But we know are beginning to understand the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut.

This means that changes in the microbial environment can affect behaviour, and behavioural changes can affect the gut bacteria (2). Gut bacteria and probiotics can directly interact with our nervous system, they can secrete hormones that can be transferred to the brain, and they can reduce systemic inflammation.


The Study In Footballers Concluded That...

"Football is a game where players need to make decisions based on a rapidly changing environment while considering teammates, opponents, as well as the ball. Due to that, players need to intensely focus their attention on the game and maintain the highest physical capabilities to achieve their targets.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are often associated with competitions, and regulating these psychophysiological components can be the solution to improve performance via food-based nutritional supplements. ...with supplementation of Lactobacillus Casei Shirota strain, the delta and theta brain waves were higher in the probiotic group after four weeks that provide evidence for relaxation and attention components in the probiotic group." 


1 - Adikari, A. M. G. C. P., Mahenderan Appukutty, and Garry Kuan. "Effects of Daily Probiotics Supplementation on Anxiety Induced Physiological Parameters among Competitive Football Players." Nutrients 12, no. 7 (2020): 1920.

 2 - Liu, Bangshan, Yunan He, Mi Wang, Jin Liu, Yumeng Ju, Yan Zhang, Tiebang Liu, Lingjiang Li, and Qi Li. "Efficacy of probiotics on anxiety—A meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials." Depression and anxiety 35, no. 10 (2018): 935-945.