The microbiota is the set of bacteria that populate our intestines. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that the microbiota is involved only in the digestive mechanisms. In fact, the health of the entire organism depends on the health of the microbiota, as more and more scientific research is showing. An unbalanced microbiota can be the cause of overweight and obesity, can lead, in the long run, to chronic inflammation that weakens the immune system and can play a long-term role in the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. Thanks to the research of today, we also know that a diet rich in fiber useful for regulating the microbiota can also help counteract depression, especially in premenopausal women (Kim et al, Menopause, Dec 2020).
The researchers analyzed the eating habits and mental health status of about 5,800 women, all of different ages, who participated in the Korea National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. In particular, the scientists were able to estimate, through questionnaires to which women were periodically subjected, the intake of fiber from the diet. The fibers have a protective action on the microbiota since they promote the development of so-called good bacteria. Through the same questionnaire, the researchers were also able to assess the possible presence of depression. What emerged was that in premenopausal women those who consumed more foods rich in fiber also had a lower risk of depression given the ability of the microbiota to influence neurotransmission. However, this relationship was not observed in postmenopause. Researchers explain this case with the role played by estrogen. In fact, estrogens affect the composition of the microbiota and their decline in menopause could counteract, in part, the beneficial action of the fibers. However, this effect is observed just for what concerns mood since fibers are considered a healthy dietary choice in all ages, able to keep at bay blood sugar and cholesterol values.