The potential influence of probiotic supplementation on cardiovascular health and stress responsivity remains largely unexplored. Some evidence suggests the possibility that probiotics may influence blood pressure. A separate body of research suggests that exaggerated cardiovascular reactions to acute psychological stress in the laboratory predict cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The current investigation explored the effect of acute probiotic use on (1) resting cardiovascular measures in healthy young adults and (2) cardiovascular and psychological reactions to an acute psychological stressor in the laboratory.
Participants (N = 105, M [SD] age = 20.17 [1.26], 84.8% white) completed a 2-week, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial of a multispecies and multistrain probiotic. Exclusion criteria included previous probiotic use, diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder, and/or current antibiotic use. At visits 1 and 2, participants completed the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test, a widely used psychological stress task. Participants were randomly assigned to a probiotic blend or matched placebo.
Compared with placebo, 2-week probiotic supplementation did not affect resting measures of cardiovascular function, cardiovascular responses during or recovery from stress, or psychological reactions to acute psychological stress.
Contrary to expectations, short-term use of a probiotic supplement in healthy participants did not influence measures of cardiovascular function or responsivity to psychological stress. Future research is needed to determine species- and strain-specific effects of probiotics in healthy participants with various degrees of stress responsiveness, as well as in diseased populations.