April 14th, 2015

New Study Shows Probiotics May Prevent ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism & ADHD Prevention in Children

There is a growing amount of medical research indicating that alterations in the type of bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract can influence brain function, mood and overall mental health. A new study from Finland is the first to show that probiotic supplementation early in life may be an effective way to reduce the rising tide of brain disorders in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

Background Data:

Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances are very common in children with brain disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) including Asperger’s syndrome (AS). A number of mechanisms have been suggested linking these brain disorders as well as some of the common digestive disturbances these kids experience to alterations in the gut bacteria.

One novel theory is that lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in children with ASD and ADD leads to an increase in toxin-producing bacteria such as Clostridium species. One study that supports this link that a gut microbial imbalance, such as the presence of toxin-producing Clostridium species, could contribute to ASD behavioral symptoms involved 11 children with ASD who were treated for 8 weeks with vancomycin. This antibiotic is often used in the treatment of chronic diarrhea due to Clostridium difficile. In this small study, scores for behavior and communication improved significantly during the treatment period; however, these gains only lasted while the children were given the antibiotic. This study raises the possibility that using probiotics, rather than antibiotics, may be helpful in at least some cases of ASD and, perhaps, ADHD as well.

In addition to the possibility that children with ASD and/or ADHD may be influenced by the absorption of gut-derived bacterial toxins, an altered gut flora also leads to increased gut permeability. Several studies have shown that the integrity of the intestinal lining is compromised in both ADHD and ASD. Increased gut permeability could lead to the absorption of microbial byproducts as well as partially digested food-derived compounds that may affect brain cell function directly or lead to immune responses that could also affect brain cells. Since probiotics can also improve the gut barrier, they may provide additional benefits in ADHD and ASD through this mechanism as well. Furthermore, since approximately 80% of the immune system resides in and around the intestinal lining, probiotics may also favorably affect the immune system to reduce the GI inflammation often observed in children with ADHD and ASD.

Lastly, a recent study in healthy women showed that supplementation with a mixture of probiotic bacteria had significant effects on brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation indicating that the probiotic bacteria themselves may be capable of exerting beneficial effects directly on brain function and mood.

New Data:

To test the hypothesis that probiotic supplementation may protect against the development of ADHD and AS, researchers in Finland looked closer at a study that was originally designed to test the effect of early supplementation with a probiotic in infancy on the later development of eczema. The mothers of 159 children were recruited in the and randomized in double-blind, placebo-controlled manner to receive 10 billion colony-forming units of Lactobacillus rhamnosus or placebo daily for 4 weeks before expected delivery. After delivery, the capsule contents were given either to the children, or continuously to the mothers, if breast-feeding, for 6 months.

To evaluate for a possible link between probiotic supplementation and ADHD or AS, 75 of these children were evaluated by an experienced child psychiatrist or neurologist not involved in the study or follow-up and the children were randomized and blinded so as not to produce any study bias. Results showed that ADHD or AS was diagnosed in 6/35 (17.1%) children in the placebo and none in the probiotic group (0/40). The probability value of this occurring was 0.008 indicating that it was not due to chance, but rather to a clear effect.

Because fecal samples were stored, the researchers were able to analyze the children for gut bacteria during their first six months of life. What the researchers found was that the numbers of Bifidobacterium species bacteria in feces during the first 6 months of life was lower in children with ADHD and AS compared to the healthy children.

The researchers concluded “Probiotic supplementation early in life may reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric disorder development later in childhood possible by mechanisms not limited to gut microbiota composition.”


When I read this study, my immediate response was WOW. Not because the results were unexpected, but rather my surprise that someone actually studied the possibility that probiotic supplementation may offer significant protection against the development of AS and ADHD.

What are the takeaways from this study? Alterations in gut bacteria and/or GI function/integrity may be a major factor in the development of childhood behavioral disorders. I strongly encourage all expecting mothers to supplement their diets with a high quality probiotic supplement, continue with that supplement while breastfeeding, and give their infants a probiotic supplement when they are no longer being breastfed.

My specific product recommendations are for women to use the Ultimate Probiotic Women’s Formula from Natural Factors at a dosage of one capsule per day for general support that will provide 12 billion live bacteria. For infants and children, I recommend the Ultimate Probiotic Children Formula from Natural Factors. For children 0-5 years old: 1/2 teaspoon, 1 to 3 times per day. For children 6-12 years old: 1 teaspoon, 1 to 3 times a day. Both of these formulas contain a good dosage of Lactobacillus rhamnosus along with compatible other probiotic bacteria.


Pärtty A, Kalliomäki M, Wacklin P, Salminen S, Isolauri E. A possible link between early probiotic intervention and the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later in childhood: a randomized trial. Pediatr Res. 2015 Mar 11. doi: 10.1038/pr.2015.51.

Dr. Michael Murray

April 7th, 2015

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Depression


Depression is a major public health problem, especially in women. Recent statistics indicate that approximately 63% of American women and 35% of men will experience clinical depression at some point in their lifetime. While depression is clearly a multifactorial disorder, new research from Oregon State University shows that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with clinically significant symptoms of depression in otherwise healthy individuals.

Background Data:

A number of population-based studies indicate that low levels of vitamin D may contribute to depression. Possible mechanisms include that there are receptor sites for vitamin D distributed in brain areas involved in the processing of emotions. Vitamin D also regulates the manufacture of key brain chemicals like serotonin that are involved in the regulation of mood. Vitamin D also dampens the inflammatory response in the brain looked at as a key influencer in influencing mood by activating the stress response.

Several studies have looked at the association between vitamin D sufficiency status and depression, but these studies were inconclusive. In addition, there have also been clinical trials where vitamin D supplementation was used to try to alleviate the depression in subjects with low vitamin D levels. These studies have also been inconclusive.

In addition to evaluating the role of vitamin D in depression, there is some evidence that it plays a central role in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and seasonality (the milder spectrum of sensitivity of mood and behavior to seasonal changes). The so-called “winter blues.”

New Data:

To further evaluate the role of vitamin D in depression, female undergraduate students living in the Pacific Northwest during fall, winter, and spring academic terms completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale weekly for 4 weeks. The women also had their blood levels for vitamin D3 and C determined.

Lower vitamin D3 levels predicted clinically significant depressive symptoms. There was some evidence that lower levels of depressive symptoms in Fall participants (vs. Winter and Spring) were explained by their higher levels of vitamin D3.

These findings are consistent with other studies showing association between low levels of vitamin D and symptoms of depression. Noting that vitamin D supplementation is a low-cost, simple and low-risk intervention, the researchers recommended that the preventive value of D3 supplementation be tested.


This new study adds to the growing evidence on the importance of vitamin D3 in human nutrition. Most adults need to be supplementing with 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day, depending on their sun exposure.

In addition to vitamin D3, an insufficiency of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oils has also been linked to depression. Studies have also reported that countries with high rates of fish oil consumption have low rates of depressive disorder. Because the brain is the richest source of fats in the human body and proper nerve cell function is critically dependent on proper cell membrane function, the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be primarily due to improving cell membrane function.

Studies have shown that the fish oils impact the physical properties of cell membranes thereby influencing membrane fluidity; brain signal transmission; neurotransmitter synthesis and binding as well as the uptake of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Bottom line is that fish oils rich in EPA+ DHA provides powerful nutritional support for brain health and a positive mood. In depression, the recommended dosage is 3,000 mg EPA+DHA daily.


Kerr DC, Zava DT, Piper WT, et al. Associations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in healthy young adult women. Psychiatry Res. 2015 Mar 5. pii: S0165-1781(15)00108-0.

Dr. Michael Murray

March 31st, 2015

Simply Increasing the Intake of Green Leafy Vegetables Promotes Weight Loss


Lets face it, most Americans are overfed, but undernourished. It is entirely possible that one of the contributing factors to the obesity epidemic is actually a shortage of the various phytochemicals our body utilizes to promote health. Our bodies may have some internal mechanism that senses the lack of the critical nutrition that we humans are designed to receive from plant foods. In early times, when this switch was flicked it simply drove us to gather more food, which meant mainly more plant foods. In modern times, the signal simply results in a quick trip to the refrigerator, pantry, or fast food restaurant.

A new study from Sweden highlights the possibility that effective weight loss may be as simple as increasing the amount of green leafy vegetables in the diet. Green leafy vegetables contain compounds known as thylakoids that trigger satiety signals in humans to help people regulate food intake, prevent weight gain, and promote weight loss.

Background Data:

Human clinical trials have shown greater weight loss from high vegetable intake when part of a reduced calorie, healthy diet with or without behavioral support. Of course, it is important to know what is classified as a vegetable. For example, potato chips and French fries are obviously not classified as a vegetable.

Several mechanisms have been suggested with the most plausible being lower calorie intake and increased feelings of satiety. However, the phytochemical composition is also important, as many plant compounds have been shown to favorably affect enzymes, appetite regulating compounds, insulin sensitivity, and hormones involved in weight control. In addition, eating more vegetables often help shift dietary patterns to healthier cuisine choices.

New Data:

To investigate the impact of green leafy vegetable consumption to reduce subjective hunger and promote satiety signals, 38 women were randomized to dietary supplementation with either spinach extract (5 g) or a placebo, consumed once daily before breakfast for 12 weeks. All individuals were instructed to follow a three-meal plan without any snacking between the meals and to increase their physical activity. Body weight change was analyzed every third week as was blood glucose and various lipid parameters.

The study also measured the blood levels of glucose, insulin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) on day 1 and day 90 after participants ate a standardized breakfast. Researchers also assessed subjective ratings of hunger, satiety and urge for different palatable foods at this time.

Results showed that subjects receiving the spinach extract lost significantly more body weight than did those on placebo (p < 0.01). Mean weight loss with spinach extract was 5.0 kg compared to 3.5 kg in the control group. Consumption of spinach extract also reduced total and LDL-cholesterol (compared to control). It also was shown on day 1 and day 90 that the spinach extract increased after-meal release of GLP-1, and decreased the urge for sweet and chocolate compared to the control group.

These results show quite clearly the weight loss benefits of increased consumption of thylakoids.


Although this study used a spinach extract for thylakoids, eating or juicing more green leafy vegetables would accomplish the same effect. In addition, whey protein as well as the revolutionary dietary fiber matrix PGX have both been shown to produce a significant increase in GLP-1. Studies with a synthetic, injectable form of GLP-1 produced significant weight loss in humans as it makes most people feel full, leading to reduced food intake. These compounds like thylakoids, whey protein, and PGX appear to produce the same effect naturally.



Montelius C, Erlandsson D, Vitija E, et al. Body weight loss, reduced urge for palatable food and increased release of GLP-1 through daily supplementation with green-plant membranes for three months in overweight women. Appetite. 2014 Oct;81:295-304.

Dr. Michael Murray