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The gut microbiome affects various physiological and psychological processes in animals and humans, and environmental influences profoundly impact its composition. Disorders such as anxiety, obesity, and inflammation have been associated with certain microbiome compositions, which may be modulated in early life. In 62 Long-Evans rats, we characterised the effects of lifelong Bifidobacterium longum R0175 and Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 administration-along with Western diet exposure-on later anxiety, metabolic consequences, and inflammation. We found that the probiotic formulation altered specific anxiety-like behaviours in adulthood. We further show distinct sex differences in metabolic measures. In females, probiotic treatment increased calorie intake and leptin levels without affecting body weight. In males, the probiotic seemed to mitigate the effects of Western diet on adult weight gain and calorie intake, without altering leptin levels. The greatest inflammatory response was seen in male, Western-diet-exposed, and probiotic-treated rats, which may be related to levels of specific steroid hormones in these groups. These results suggest that early-life probiotic supplementation and diet exposure can have particular implications on adult health in a sex-dependent manner, and highlight the need for further studies to examine the health outcomes of probiotic treatment in both sexes.

Keywords: Bifidobacterium; Lactobacillus; Western diet; animal models; anxiety; food intake; inflammation; leptin; probiotics; sex differences.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Increased Caloric Intake in FemalesNeutral
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Increased Inflammatory ResponseHarmful
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Increased Leptin LevelsNeutral
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Reduced Anxiety LevelsBeneficial
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Reduced Weight GainBeneficial
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