Supplementation with galacto-oligosaccharides reduces cortisol levels
Galacto-oligosaccharides are small and difficult to digest sugar chains that are found in onions and beans, to name but a few. If you take a few grams of galacto-oligosaccharides in the morning, your body will produce less of the stress hormone cortisol within a few weeks. This was discovered by psychologists at the University of Oxford. The researchers used a supplement containing galacto-oligosaccharides that, according to the manufacturer, helps against bloating and constipation.
The researchers gave 15 subjects 5.5 grams of galacto-oligosaccharides [GOS] [structural formula below] at breakfast for 3 weeks. The researchers used Bimuno, a product of the British Clasado [clasado.com]. You've already guessed that Clasado sponsored the investigation.
Another group of 15 subjects received maltodextrin as a placebo, and yet another group of 15 subjects received a sachet containing fructo-oligosaccharides [FOS].
So there were 2 control groups.
GOS & FOS
Galacto-oligosaccharides [GOS] are small chains of 3-9 galactose units linked together. The supplement industry often makes galacto-oligosaccharides from lactose, but you can also find these chains in onions, artichokes and beans.
Fructooligosaccharides [FOS] are small chains of 3-9 fructose units. They are in almost all fruits and vegetables.
Both fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides are prebiotics. Our body has a hard time digesting them, but in the intestine they are a nutrient medium for healthy bacteria, the probiotics. Probiotics convert prebiotics into substances that the body can absorb.
Just before and just after the three weeks of supplementation, the researchers measured the cortisol concentration in the saliva of their test subjects in the first hour that the test subjects were awake. Cortisol production is at its highest in the morning. The figure below shows that the galacto-oligosaccharides reduced the concentration of cortisol compared to the placebo group.
Supplementation with fructo-oligosaccharides had the same effect on cortisol as maltodetrin.
The researchers suspect that galacto-oligosaccharides stimulate the growth of benign organisms in the gut. A healthier gut flora could then act via the vagus nerve to the brain, reducing the release of hormones that cause the adrenal gland to produce cortisol.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 May;232(10):1793-801.
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