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New Study: Dietary Fiber Reduces Brain Inflammation

New Study: Dietary Fiber Reduces Brain Inflammation
Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash

According to a new study performed by the University of Illinois of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, there may be a remedy to delay memory and brain issues as we age – dietary fiber.

The study reports, “As mammals age, immune cells in the brain (known as microglia) become chronically inflamed. In this state, they produce chemicals known to impair cognitive and motor functions. That’s one explanation for why memory fades and other brain functions decline during old age.”

The Link Between Your Gut and Your Brain

Dietary fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. When the bacteria digest the fiber, they produce short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs). One of the most important SCFAs is Butyrate, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglia and improve memory in mice, according to a study entitled, Frontiers in Immunology.

Researchers report that butyrate derived from dietary fiber should have the same benefits in the brain as the drug form, but it has never been tested before.

The Study: Dietary Fiber and Memory

The researchers fed low- and high-fiber diets to groups of young and old mice,  then measured the levels of butyrate and other SCFAs in the blood, as well as inflammatory chemicals in the intestine.

“The high-fiber diet elevated butyrate and other SCFAs in  the blood, both for young and old mice. But only the old mice showed intestinal inflammation on the low-fiber 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.”

When the old mice consumed the high-fiber diet, their intestinal inflammation was reduced dramatically, showing no difference between the age groups. Researchers then turned to examining signs of inflammation in the brain – 50 unique gene in microglia. They concluded that the high-fiber diet reduced that inflammatory profile in ages animals.

Johnson concludes, “dietary fiber can really manipulate the inflammatory environment in the gut.”

Adding Fiber to Your Diet

Dietary fiber is material from plant cells that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract. It is important for the health of the digestive system and in lowering cholesterol. There are two types of fiber – water-soluble and water insoluble.

Soluble fibers absorb water during digestion, increase stool bulk and may decrease blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in fruits (like apples and oranges), vegetables, legumes and oats.

In-soluble fibers remain unchanged during digestion, promoting normal movement of intestinal contents. It can be found in fruits with edible peels and seeds, whole grain products (wheat bread and pasta), cereals and brown rice.

Dietary Fiber

According to The American Heart Association, total dietary fiber should be 25 to 30 grams a day from foo. Currently, dietary fiber intakes among adults in the U.S. average about 15 grams a day  – 10 grams below the current recommended intake.

If you are having a difficult time with your intake of dietary fiber, your doctor or a certified nutritionist may recommend fiber supplements. The three most studied and beneficial fiber supplements contain –

Inulin is a type of prebiotic fiber, non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. They play a major role in how you absorb nutrients and produce hormones. You can find Inulin in high-quality fiber supplements, however you’ll want to make sure it is a non-gmo, organic inulin, made following cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices).

Methylcellulose, is a common soluble fiber made from cellulose that is non-fermentable, meaning it is less likely to contribute to bloating and gas.

Psyllium contains 70% soluble fiber, which can help increase fullness and slow digestion. It also contains some insoluble fiber, so it passes through the gut easier, helping to keep you regular.

Questions about dietary fiber? Leave us a comment below to discuss.

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