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Tuesday, 18 September 2018
According to Medical News Today, fibre is a key element of a healthful diet. New research breaks down the mechanism by which it can delay age-related brain inflammation.
Fibre can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, and whole-grain foods.
Eating fibre-rich foods — such as broccoli, nuts, oats, beans, and whole-grain bread — might help delay brain aging by triggering the production of a short-chain fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties.
This the main find of a new study that was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.
Rodney Johnson, a professor and the head of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is the corresponding author of the study, and Stephanie M. Matt is the first author of the paper.
How fibre lowers inflammation
As Matt and colleagues explain in their study paper, microglia — a major type of immune cell in the brain — tend to become hyperactive and chronically inflamed with age. This inflammation of the microglia is one of the main causes of memory and cognitive decline in old age.
Previous research has shown that a drug form of butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid that is produced in the colon when bacteria ferment fibre in the gut, can improve memory and reduce inflammation in mice.
However, the precise mechanisms behind this weren't entirely understood. Also, previous research had not shown whether simply increasing the dietary content of fibre would achieve the same results as the drug.
So, Matt and colleagues fed young and aging mice diets high and low in fibre. Then, the scientists measured the mice's blood levels of butyrate and their levels of pro-inflammatory substances in their intestines.
Prof. Johnson sums up these findings, saying, "The high-fibre diet elevated butyrate and other [short-chain fatty acids] in the blood both for young and old mice."
"But," he goes on, "only the old mice showed intestinal inflammation on the low-fibre diet [...] It's interesting that young adults didn't have that inflammatory response on the same diet. It clearly highlights the vulnerability of being old."
Also, consuming a high-fibre diet reduced the intestinal inflammation in aging mice so much that it was indistinguishable from that of young mice.
Why fibre is good for your brain
A genetic analysis of inflammatory markers conducted by the scientists found that a high-fibre diet reduced inflammation in the brain's microglia. The researchers suspect that this was achieved by diminishing the production of a pro-inflammatory chemical known as interleukin-1β, which some studies have linked with Alzheimer's.
Study co-author Jeff Woods, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, comments on the findings.
"We know that diet has a major influence on the composition and function of microbes in the gut and that diets high in fibre benefit good microbes," he points out, "while diets high in fat and protein can have a negative influence on microbial composition and function."
Altering gut microbes, explains Prof. Woods, "is one way in which [diet] affects disease."
Prof. Johnson explains that the findings are relevant to humans, saying, "People are not likely to consume sodium butyrate directly, due to its noxious odor," he says, but, "A practical way to get elevated butyrate is to consume a diet high in soluble fibre."
Source: Medical News Today, By Ana Sandoiu