Dietary Fiber, Aging And Brain Health

Every function of the body seems to slow down when we age - and the brain is no different. Aging also causes a reduction in brain function because the microglia, which is the immune cells in the brain, produce harmful chemicals whenever they become inflamed. These chemicals then go on to cause harm to the brain health which leads to memory loss and other poor functions of the brain. To combat this problem, researchers have found out that the butyrate from the fiber can make all the difference as it contains anti-inflammatory qualities to stop the activities of the microglia.

“Butyrate is of interest because it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglia and improve memory in mice when administered pharmacologically,” says Professor Rodney Johnson, head of the Department of Animal Sciences and corresponding author on the Frontiers in Immunology study. The study took a look at the effects of butyrate on older mice and found out that it was able to stop the production of dangerous brain-damaging chemicals. Johnson believes that if humans can eat meals that are high in soluble fiber, they would get more sodium butyrate since it’s not possible to consume it directly. When one eats fiber, the bacteria in the gut will convert it to sodium butyrate and other short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs) which helps the gut health and also affects the outcome of certain diseases.

Intestinal Inflammation

The study in a bid to see how butyrate affects the body fed young and old mice high and low-fiber diets. After this, they measured to see the level of butyrate and other SCFAs in the blood. They also checked for chemicals that cause inflammation in the intestine. The high fiber diet had produced more butyrate and other SCFAs in both the young and old mice. One thing that was worthy of note is that they only found intestinal inflammation on the old mice they had fed a low-fiber diet. The younger mice that were given the same diet were perfectly fine. This proved how different the old body system is from the young. The study also went on to prove how effective dietary fiber could reduce intestinal inflammation too as the old mice they fed the high-fiber diet saw reduced inflammation.

The researchers also checked for brain inflammation. They set about examining the genes in microglia which were about 50 unique genes. The mice they had fed the high-fiber diet also experienced a reduction in brain inflammation. However, the study did not show how the high-fiber diet affected the behavioral and cognitive function of the brain. They promise to tackle this aspect and all others in future research.

After the research, Johnson was confident that the effect would be the same in humans. He added that older adults do not consume much fiber and this has a great effect on their brain health and other body inflammations.


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