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Ecologic® Barrier reduces depressive-like behaviour

Outcomes of two rat studies


The incidence of major depressive disorder (MDD) is on the rise. It is predicted that it will become the largest contributor to the global burden of disease by 2030 [1,2]. MDD is highly associated with obesity and diabetes mellitus type II (DM2) [3,4] and a high fat diet has been linked to all of these conditions [5]. In two recently published publications, Abildgaard et al. investigated the effect of probiotic treatment and diet on depressive-like behaviour in rats. The results indicated that probiotic treatment with Ecologic® BARRIER reduces depressive-like behaviour, and that probiotic treatment protects against the depression promoting effect of a high-fat diet [6,7].

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It has been hypothesised that the immune system has an effect on MDD [8]. This might also be why MDD shows comorbidity with metabolic disorders such as obesity and DM2, which are characterised by mild, chronic inflammation in the metabolic tissues [9]. The gut microbiota is of great influence on the immune system and metabolic parameters in the gut and might therefore provide a target to modulate MDD. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed. Ecologic® BARRIER has previously shown to reduce reactivity to sad mood in healthy human subjects [10].




Review on probiotics and depression

More information about the probiotic formulation Ecologic® BARRIER 

The Research

The Danish researchers Abildgaard et al. performed two rat studies that investigated the effect of probiotics and a high-fat-diet on depressive-like behaviour. In the studies the rats were randomly divided into a group receiving a control diet and a group receiving a high-fat-diet, these groups were then again divided into a group receiving probiotics and a group receiving a placebo. The depressive-like behaviour of the rats was examined using a forced-swim test. This test measures the amount rats move during a swimming exercise; less movement indicates more depressive-like behaviour. The second study also measured metabolic markers.




Study: Probiotic treatment reduces depressive-like behaviour in rats independently of diet 



Study: Probiotic treatment protects against the pro-depressant like effect of high-fat diet in Flinders Sensitive Line Rats 




In the first study, it was shown that probiotic treatment with Ecologic® BARRIER reduced depressive like behaviour in SD (Sprague Dewey) rats by 34% (95% CI: 22–44%) independent of diet, when compared to their non-probiotic treatment receiving counterparts.

The researchers also looked for a mechanistic explanation of this effect. They found changes in gene expression in the brain involved in the HPA-axis (stress response), structural plasticity and neuroprotection, which are negatively influenced by a high fat diet. Secondly, immune markers were changed by probiotic treatment towards a less pro-inflammatory profile. Also, changes in metabolites were reported, one of which is IPA, a potent neuroprotective antioxidant and involved in barrier function and maintenance of mucus homeostasis. These mechanisms, here confirmed in a rat model, are often hypothesized in literature to be essential in microbiota-gut-brain communication. Ecologic® BARRIER clearly uses these routes to promote positive effect on mood.  


In the second study, the effect of the high-fat-diet on FSL (Flinders sensitive Line) rats was first investigated. FSL rats have a genetic predisposition for depressive behaviour, this predisposition was enhanced by the high-fat diet (p<0.001), whereas the high-fat-diet did not affect the behaviour of SD rats. Interestingly, treatment with Ecologic® BARRIER completely protected against the depressive-like behaviour promoting effects of the high-fat-diet (p<0.01). FSL rats on control diet were not affected by the probiotics. These results suggest that Ecologic® BARRIER modulates and protects against the environmental component, as presented by the high-fat-diet, of depressive-like behaviour, but not the genetic aspect. 



What does this study mean in daily practice/for your patient? 

in recent years a typical Western diet has changed to contain a higher fat percentage. This change has been accompanied with an increase in MDD prevalence. Indeed, a high-fat-diet is associated with depression. The presented studies showed that supplementation with Ecologic® BARRIER countered the depressive-like behaviour promoting effect of a high-fat-diet in rats with a genetic predisposition for depression. It was also shown that supplementation with Ecologic® BARRIER reduces depressive-like behaviour independent of diet in rats with no genetic predisposition for depression. It is therefore hypothesized that probiotics can help protect against the environmental factors of depression, but not against the genetic components of the disease. This is an indication that Ecologic® BARRIER can be of use in fighting the increasing prevalence of MDD as a result of changed dietary patterns. This is especially important in depressed individuals who are also burdened with metabolic conditions such as obesity and DM2. As MDD has a high comorbidity with these diseases, the presented results are of large significance for treatment of depression. The results are in line with previous results that Ecologic® BARRIER reduces reactivity to sad mood in humans. 




The results of the two rat studies are an indication that Ecologic®BARRIER can be of use in fighting the increasing prevalence of MDD as a result of changed dietary patterns.





Educational Support

We are happy to support you in how to communicate these results to your healthcare professionals and how to implement them into you educational materials. For this, please contact Karen Koning, Senior Scientist and Head of Education at Winclove Probiotics. 




1.         Mathers, C., Fat, D. M., Boerma, J. T. & WHO. The Global Burden of Disease: 2004 Update. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2008.

2.         Hidaka BH. Depression as a disease of modernity: explanations for increasing prevalence. J Affect Disord. 2012;140(3):205-214. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2011.12.036.

3.         Luppino FS, de Wit LM, Bouvy PF, et al. Overweight, obesity, and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(3):220-229. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.2.

4.         Rotella F, Mannucci E. Diabetes mellitus as a risk factor for depression. A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2013;99(2):98-104. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2012.11.022.

5.         Zemdegs J, Quesseveur G, Jarriault D, Pénicaud L, Fioramonti X, Guiard BP. High-fat diet-induced metabolic disorders impairs 5-HT function and anxiety-like behavior in mice. Br J Pharmacol. 2016;173(13):2095-2110. doi:10.1111/bph.13343.

6.         Abildgaard A, Elfving B, Hokland M, Wegener G, Lund S. Probiotic treatment reduces depressive-like behaviour in rats independently of diet. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017;79:40-48. doi:

7.         Abildgaard A, Elfving B, Hokland M, Lund S, Wegener G. Probiotic treatment protects against the pro-depressant-like effect of high-fat diet in Flinders Sensitive Line rats. Brain Behav Immun. doi:

8.         Castanon N, Lasselin J, Capuron L. Neuropsychiatric Comorbidity in Obesity: Role of Inflammatory Processes   . Front Endocrinol  . 2014;5:74.

9.         Hotamisligil GS. Inflammation and metabolic disorders. Nature. 2006;444(7121):860-867.

10.        Steenbergen L, Sellaro R, van Hemert S, Bosch JA, Colzato LS. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain Behav Immun. 2015;48:258-264. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003.




Outcomes two rat studies with Ecologic Barrier

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