Dietary fibre a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our body improves memory during ageing, a study has found. Examples of dietary fibres include cereals, fruits, vegetables, dried peas, nuts and grains.
The study was conducted at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. The researchers fed groups of young and old mice with low- and high-fibre diets, then measured the levels of butyrate in the blood, as well as inflammatory chemicals in the intestine.
The high-fibre diet elevated butyrate in the blood for both young and old mice. But only the old mice showed intestinal inflammation on the low-fibre diet. This shows the consequence of low fibre diet in the elderly population.
In a different scenario, when old mice consumed the high-fibre diet, their intestinal inflammation was reduced dramatically, showing no difference between the age groups.
HOW DIETARY FIBRE IMPROVES MEMORY
As humans age, microglia – immune cells in the brain becomes inflamed. This results in the production of chemicals which impair memory. One of the reasons why memory fades during old age.
Dietary fibre promotes the growth of gut normal flora – bacteria normally present in the gut. These bacteria digest fibre which results in the release of some Fatty acids as well as butyrate.
Butyrate has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglia and improve memory in mice when administered pharmacologically.
OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS OF DIETARY FIBRE
We have discussed some benefits of eating dietary fibre in our article “Why You Should Be Eating Fruits”. There are other benefits to eating dietary fibre.
Weight Loss. Fibre makes us feel full by bulking our diet. It is not digestible and absorbable reducing calories, appetite and unnecessary fat. This is essential for losing weight.
Digestion. Fibre aids the digestion process in the body. The body can’t digest or absorb fibre so it increases the weight and size of the stool and softens it.
This decreases the risk of constipation – inability to pass stool for at least once in 3 days. It may also solidify the stool in case of diarrhoea – passing stools at least 3 times a day.
Abdominal disorders. Fibre prevents and treats abdominal disorders such as constipation, gastritis, irregular bowel movement and colon cancer.
Low cholesterol level. High cholesterol level isn’t good for health. This is a risk factor for high blood pressure and other common heart diseases. Studies have shown that fibre helps lowers total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels.
Blood sugar levels. Soluble fibre helps to control blood sugar levels by slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates and absorption of sugar.
Food rich in fibre is good for health but it is necessary to increase fibre intake over time so that the gut microflora can adjust. If this isn’t done, eating high content of fibre all at once may lead to bloating, cramping and abdominal discomfort.