Study: Fiber can reduce brain inflammation during aging

Mice show positive effects beyond aging effects

According to a new study from the University of Illinois, there may be a remedy to delay the inevitable effects of aging on the human brain: dietary fiber.

Dietary fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. When these bacteria digest fiber, they produce short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, as byproducts.

“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 Rodney Johnson, professor and head of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois, and corresponding author on the Frontiers in Immunology study.

The new study reveals, in old mice, that butyrate inhibits production of damaging chemicals by inflamed microglia. One of those chemicals is interleukin-1β, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

“People are not likely to consume sodium butyrate directly, due to its noxious odor,” Johnson says. “A practical way to get elevated butyrate is to consume a diet high in soluble fiber.”

“We know that diet has a major influence on the composition and function of microbes in the gut and that diets high in fiber benefit good microbes, while diets high in fat and protein can have a negative influence on microbial composition and function. Diet, through altering gut microbes, is one way in which it affects disease,” said Jeff Woods, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at U of I, and co-author on the study.


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