Can our gut microbiome affect our risk of developing dementia? That’s what the BRIGHT Accelerator at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and neurobiologist, Dr Andrew Shoubridge, are hoping to find out.
Recent studies suggest that the microorganisms in our gut, known as the gut microbiome, could be responsible for cognitive decline later in life. Dr Shoubridge is investigating how common risks, such as poor diet, certain medications, and antibiotics, can compromise our gut health and potentially increase our risk of developing dementia.
“Our microbiome is directly affected by many factors, including what we eat, drink, and medications we take,” Dr Shoubridge explained. “If we pollute it with things like poor diet and drugs, that can create a lot of problems. Our gut isn’t isolated, and in fact has a lot of influence over other environments within our body, especially the brain. When our gut health is compromised, our brain is too.”
Dr Shoubridge is using national databases containing automatically collected healthcare data to analyze the medication regimes of hundreds of thousands of Australians and chart their impact on mental health over time. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the gut-brain connection and find strategies to prevent dementia onset in Australians who are at risk.
“Our gut is a complex environment. There are millions and millions of bacteria, good and bad, living in there. We’ve evolved with bacteria in our gut, and there are various pathways these bacteria use to communicate with our brain. Through the release of specific compounds and our immune system, they can change how the neurons in our body function, from our gut all the way to our brain,” Dr Shoubridge said.
This research is a significant step towards improving the health and wellbeing of all people along the entire dementia timeline. By taking care of our gut health and avoiding certain medications that can negatively impact our gut microbiome, we may be able to reduce our risk of developing dementia later in life.
North Terrace, Adelaide