Gut-Brain Link: Protect Your Brain From Aging, Eat More Fiber

The fermentation of fibers in the intestine would benefit the aging brain, via butyrate. This work carried out in mice reinforces the links between the intestine and the brain.

Following the discovery of the gut-brain axis, which maintains two-way communication between these two organs, here is yet another pathway by which gut activities can impact the brain. This pathway goes through butyrate from the fermentation of dietary fiber, which could thus prove beneficial for the aging brain. This is what emerges from this work carried out on mice by a team from the University of Illinois.

Fiber reduces inflammation in older pets

Dietary fiber is known to be partially fermented by colonic bacteria. And butyrate, among other short-chain carboxylic acids (ACCCs), is one of the by-products of this fermentation. This butyrate can be absorbed in the colon to reach the bloodstream and thus exert systemic effects, far from its place of production.

Pharmacologically administered in the form of sodium butyrate to mice, it was found to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglial cells, immune cells in the brain. However, the chronic inflammation of these cells is considered to be an important mechanism in the decline in cognitive functions that occurs with age.

The researchers wanted to verify whether such a protective effect of butyrate was found through the consumption of dietary fibre. They therefore compared the effects of two diets (low or high fiber) in young mice and old mice. They measured how much butyrate and other ACCCs appeared in the blood, as well as markers of inflammation in the gut.

Inflammatory profile of the brain lowered with the fibers

Not surprisingly, the high-fiber diet increases ACCCs in the blood of all animals. On the other hand, only the old animals showed, with the low fiber diet, an increase in intestinal inflammation. This underlines the age-related vulnerability… On the other hand, the elderly mice receiving the high fiber diet showed a markedly reduced level of inflammation in the intestine.

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The researchers then looked at inflammation in the brain, finding that the high-fiber diet reduced the inflammatory profile in the brain of aged animals.

The next step will be to verify whether these observations are coupled with a slowing of cognitive decline occurring with age, and, of course, whether all this is found in humans.

Decidedly, fibers are much more than a matter of transit!

Stephanie M. Matt: Butyrate and Dietary Soluble Fiber Improve Neuroinflammation Associated With Aging in Mice. Forehead. Immunol


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