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What are the Health Benefits of Bifidobacterium Longum?

Bifidobacterium Longum, or B. Longum for short, is a strain of bacteria with many potential applications in human health. In this post, we examine the research evaluating the benefits of B. Longum.

In another companion piece, we discussed the difference between Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species of bacteria, and how each genus can help regulate the health of the human microbiome.

The newest paper we found on the health benefits of B. Longum, titled Beneficial effects of Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum BB536 on human health, was published in 2019 in the Journal of Functional Foods. 1

Benefits of B. Longum strains

The Journal of Functional Foods paper evaluated the benefits of a specific strain of B. Longum, called BB536, but others have shown promise as well.

Strains of B. Longum have been associated with the following benefits:

  1. Enhanced mood
  2. Histamine clearance from the gut
  3. Ammonia clearance from the gut
  4. Butyrate and short chain fatty acid production

With a probiotic defined as a microorganism that confers a health benefit on the host, B. Longum seems to qualify. Let’s dig into the research.

B. Longum may help modulate stress

This study, published in the Journal of Translational Psychology in 2016, looked at the ability of B. Longum 1714 strain to function as a “psychobiotic,” a strain of probiotic bacteria that can improve mental health.  We cover the study in depth in this post on probiotics and mood, however, in a small controlled trial with 22 participants, subjects taking B. Longum reported lower levels of “daily reported stress” versus those who didn’t take a B. Longum supplement. These studies are very small, and we can’t put too much stock in them yet, but the prospect of more research in this filed is exciting.

B. Longum may help clear histamine

Histamine, an essential neurotransmitter in the brain, also accumulates in the gut. An enzyme called diamine oxidase is responsible for breaking down and clearing extracellular histamine, however, when histamine accumulates to unhealthy levels, gastrointestinal symptoms can develop.

The case for B. Longum as a histamine degrader is, to date, only based on research in rats, but there is one study on record which found B. Longum helpful in reducing histamine levels when paired with B. infantis, another beneficial probiotic strain commonly found in probiotic supplements and which is passed on from mother to infant at birth. 2

B. Longum may help clear ammonia

Ammonia is a byproduct of protein metabolism. If you can’t metabolize protein waste products well, ammonia can build in the system. 3 For more, see this Harvard Health article.

See also: Can you handle a high protein diet? The answer may be genetic

Pathogenic bacteria and fungus (Candida) can also release ammonia into the body.

Interestingly, the exact strain of B. Longum I have used, BB536, has been shown to degrade ammonia. 4 This is interesting to our conversation about probiotics and brain health because ammonia is a neurotoxin that readily crosses the blood brain barrier. 5

Whether ammonia levels are elevated due to gut dysbiosis or genetics, or a combination of both, a strain of probiotic that can lighten this load is potentially valuable for some of us.

The best study our team found showed BB536 to be effective at reducing ammonia focused on lowering levels of ammonia released from pathogenic bacteria, such as E. Coli. 4

B. Longum may increase short chain fatty acid production

This is the big prize (potentially).

Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that the colon makes when complex carbohydrates ferment in the gut. Butyrate helps protect the lining of the gut, helping to prevent chronic conditions like leaky gut. 6

Studies in mice show BB536 as an effective agent for increasing production of butyrate. 7 And guess what? Scientists are starting to recognize that short chain fatty acids, like butyrate, protect the brain and impact on mental health as well. 8

A word of caution – again we highlight a mouse study here. We can’t say for sure that results from animal studies would be replicated in human trials. The early research is exciting, but more is needed.

Not sure what to eat?

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Key takeway: the strain matters

In my post on probiotics on brain health as well as my post today, the research highlighted looked at very specific strains of B. Longum, both B. Longum 1714 and B. Longum BB536, the strain I have benefited from taking.

It’s not clear to me whether the generic strains of B. Longum listed in so many probiotics confer the same benefit as the strains mentioned above.

There have been at least 8 strains of B. Longum studied for their potential health benefits 9 , so when choosing a probiotic, it’s probably a good idea to know which strain of B. Longum is included.

See also: When should I take a probiotic?

Jennifer Nguyen

Jennifer Nguyen is a scientist living in San Diego. She did her training in molecular immunology, with a focus on checkpoint proteins and their role in autoimmune disease. She now works in cancer immunology and microbiome research. Jennifer spends her time away from the lab hanging out with her dog, climbing, and practicing yoga.

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