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probiotics found in yoghurt and supplements could help improve the thinking and memory for people with Alzheimer’s disease, research has found.

In a clinical trial involving 52 people, those who drank a daily dose of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria for 12 weeks showed improvements on tests to measure cognitive impairment.

In contrast, those who were not given the probiotic supplements declined over the same period.

Researchers at from Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, and Islamic Azad University, in Tehran, Iran, say that it suggests altering gut bacteria could help people suffering from neurodegenerative conditions.

"In a previous study, we showed that probiotic treatment improves the impaired spatial learning and memory in diabetic rats, but this is the first time that probiotic supplementation has been shown to benefit cognition in cognitively impaired humans," says Professor Mahmoud Salami from Kashan University, the senior author of the study.

"These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer's and possibly other neurological disorders," says Salami. "We plan to look at these mechanisms in greater detail in our next study."

Probiotics are known to give partial protection against certain conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, allergies, colds, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.

But scientists have long hypothesized that probiotics might also boost cognition, as there is continuous two-way communication between the intestinal bacteria and the brain along the so-called "microbiota-gut-brain axis" which links the nervous system, the immune system, and hormones.