Islamabad: New research finds interesting associations between gut bacterial diversity and personality traits, such as sociability and neuroticism. The findings also draw attention to the potential benefits of eating foods rich in pre- and probiotics.
Katerina Johnson, Ph.D., from the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, United Kingdom, set out to examine if there was a connection between the composition of the gut bacteria and personality traits such as sociability and neuroticism.
She explains the motivation for her research, saying, “There has been growing research linking the gut microbiome to the brain and behavior, known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis.”
“Most research has been conducted in animals, while studies in humans have focused on the role of the gut microbiome in neuropsychiatric conditions.”
Can gut bacteria predict your personality?
To this end, Johnson collected fecal samples from 655 adults, 71% of whom were female and 29% male, with an average age of 42. The scientists used 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis to examine abundances of specific bacterial genera.
Gut bacteria and five personality traits
More specifically, the researcher used the International Personality Item Pool — which consists of 50 items — to assess personality traits based on the “five-factor model of personality.”
This model suggests that differences in personality are grouped under five main domains, or the “Big Five:”
Johnson applied multiple regression analyses of the bacterial taxa and adjusted for key variables that scientists know influence the composition of the gut bacteria, and that may have otherwise confounded the results.
More friends may promote gut health
The study revealed that various types of bacteria that researchers had linked with an autism spectrum disorder in past studies also had associations with sociability differences in the general population.
“This suggests that the gut microbiome may contribute not only to the extreme behavioral traits seen in autism but also to variation in social behavior in the general population,” explains the study’s author.
The importance of nutrition
Furthermore, an intercorrelation analysis “revealed that people who ate more foods with naturally occurring probiotics or prebiotics had significantly lower levels of anxiety, stress, and neuroticism and were also less likely to [develop] a mental illness.”
Natural sources of probiotics include fermented cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, and natural sources of prebiotics include bananas, legumes, whole grains, asparagus, onion, and leek.
Another intriguing finding was that people who had been fed formula as infants had a less diverse gut microbiome.