Fonterra probiotics may reduce postnatal depression: study

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18 Oct 2017 --- Results of a New Zealand study suggest that Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (DR20) taken during and post-pregnancy positively affected symptoms of maternal depression and anxiety after birth. According to study author Dr. Rebecca Slykerman, the findings are significant as taking a probiotic to assist in postnatal depression is a potentially simple way to help mothers with their mental health.

The study, funded by Fonterra and the Health Research Council, involved 423 women in Auckland and Wellington. In all, 212 women were given the probiotic and 211 a placebo. Mothers in the study who took the probiotic reported significantly lower depression and anxiety scores than those in the placebo group.

“Many women are unable to access psychological therapy or are reluctant to take antidepressant medication in pregnancy or while breastfeeding,” says Dr. Slykerman. “Furthermore, it takes several weeks for the therapeutic effect of antidepressants to appear and there is a 15 to 30 percent discontinuation rate. Safe and effective therapies to prevent and treat postnatal depression are needed.”

Probiotics, which are certain live bacteria and yeasts that can be found in some foods and supplements, are known to provide certain health benefits. Fonterra’s Program Manager for Nutrition and Health Dr. James Dekker indicates that the additional potential benefits from one of its probiotics are encouraging to see.

“It is pleasing to see more evidence of the health benefits of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (which has been trademarked as DR20 and SureStart LactoB 001), one of our two probiotics,” says Dr. Dekker. “We know not all probiotics are created equal and there needs to be sound evidence for the benefits for each probiotic strain.”

Other recent studies have found that when taken by pregnant women, DR20 may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes as well as reducing the instances of childhood eczema. DR20, along with Fonterra’s other probiotic, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 (DR10), which helps out with gut health, were patented and commercialized after the screening of more than 2,000 strains in the 1990s.

Currently, DR20 is not commercially available through Fonterra, but it can be found in the Go Healthy “Go derma protect” product sold in pharmacies, while DR10 can be found in the Symbio yogurt range.

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