Introduction: The gut microbiota plays a role in gut-brain communication and can influence psychological functioning. Diet is one of the major determinants of gut microbiota composition. The impact of unpasteurised dairy products on the microbiota is unknown. In this observational study, we investigated the effect of a dietary change involving intake of unpasteurised dairy on gut microbiome composition and psychological status in participants undertaking a residential 12-week cookery course on an organic farm.
Methods: Twenty-four participants completed the study. The majority of food consumed during their stay originated from the organic farm itself and included unpasteurised milk and dairy products. At the beginning and end of the course, participants provided faecal samples and completed self-report questionnaires on a variety of parameters including mood, anxiety and sleep. Nutrient intake was monitored with a food frequency questionnaire. Gut microbiota analysis was performed with 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Additionally, faecal short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) were measured.
Results: Relative abundance of the genus Lactobacillus increased significantly between pre- and post-course time points. This increase was associated with participants intake of unpasteurised milk and dairy products. An increase in the faecal SCFA, valerate, was observed along with an increase in the functional richness of the microbiome profile, as determined by measuring the predictive neuroactive potential using a gut-brain module approach.
Conclusions: While concerns in relation to safety need to be considered, intake of unpasteurised milk and dairy products appear to be associated with the growth of the probiotic bacterial genus, Lactobacillus, in the human gut. More research is needed on the effect of dietary changes on gut microbiome composition, in particular in relation to the promotion of bacterial genera, such as Lactobacillus, which are recognised as being beneficial for a range of physical and mental health outcomes.
Keywords: Lactobacillus; dairy; microbiome-gut-brain axis; microbiota; milk; probiotic; raw; unpasteurised.