We hear everywhere that it is important to eat more fiber to benefit our health. And in fact, fibers are essential for proper intestinal functioning and to ensure health of the cardiovascular system, thanks to the control action on blood sugar and cholesterol. Well, from today we also know that the fibers introduced with the diet are protective for the brain, helping to counteract dementia. This is what emerges from a very recent research published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience by a Japanese team (Yamagishi et al, Nutritional Neuroscience, 2022).
Fibers are neuroprotective, the experiment
The researchers collected data on the eating habits of 3739 adults, aged 40 to 64, between the years 1985 and 1999. These same people were then followed up to 2020 in order to assess their health and the possible presence of dementia. Comparing the results with each other, what emerged was that in those who used to consume more fiber, the risk of developing dementia was lower. But the researchers did not stop there and tried to understand if there is a difference between the action of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber on brain health.
The beneficial role of soluble fibers
There are two types of fibers, soluble fibers, which form a gelatinous mass with water, and insoluble fibers, which instead have the characteristic of incorporating water. Soluble fibers are contained in oats and legumes and support the health of the intestinal microbiota. Insoluble fibers are found in whole grains and vegetables and are important for the proper functioning of the intestine. Well, it was found that soluble fibers showed a greater protective effect on the brain. The mechanism is still unknown but it has been hypothesized that it has to do with the existing and much studied link between microbiota and brain health, what experts call the gut-brain axis. Soluble fibers promote the proliferation of good bacteria in the intestinal microbiota, which in turn counteract inflammation, including neuroinflammations, thus reducing the risk of developing dementia. In fact, soluble fibers are associated with the production of butyrate, which is an anti-inflammatory substance. Not only that, it is believed that fibers work by counteracting other factors that can pave the way for neurodegeneration, such as increased body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.
The work is still in its infancy but looks very promising, allowing us to add a new piece to that complex but fascinating puzzle which is the link between diet and health. Because, in the end, whether we are talking about the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer's disease, the result is the same, you need to eat varied and healthy, without forgetting to integrate antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and, above all, fiber.