Aging mammals have been known to develop a decline in brain function. It is understood that neuroinflammation may be a culprit. But can these effects be mitigated? A study conducted by the University of Illinois has been done to help provide some insight to the posed question.
A team of researchers at the University wanted to know if a high fiber diet could alter neuroinflammation in any way. It has been previously observed that a dietary supplement called sodium butyrate can be taken as an anti-inflammatory. The supplement has proven to reduce and reverse inflammation. Butyrate is a naturally produced chemical also known as a short chain fatty acid, or SCFA. Butyrate is a product of gut bacteria that feed on a high fiber diet.
Rodney Johnson, a Professor at the University of Illinois, says, "Butyrate is of interest because it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglia and improve memory in mice when administered pharmacologically."
Neuroinflammation is described as inflammatory responses specific to the brain and the spinal cord. Aging, as well as, injury, disease, infection, and stresses can result in neuroinflammation. Some of the adverse effects of the inflammation are cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression.
The study looked at two groups of aged mice. One group ate a diet low in fiber, while the second group ate a diet high in fiber. The mice were analyzed after 4-weeks. It was discovered that the mice on low fiber diets had the genes that trigger inflammation, turned on. The mice from the high fiber diet group displayed the opposite; their genes that predispose mammals to inflammation were turned off.
Cells known as microglia, innate immune cells specific to the central nervous system, serve to mediate neuroinflammatory responses. Though it is not fully understood how, aging will result in microglial DNA to switch towards pro-inflammation. The group conducting this study was able to shed light on the positive effects of a diet high in fiber, and its ability to reduce neuroinflammation.
The team concludes that the data have argued a function of high fermentable fiber in observable changes to the microbiome and maybe even the permeability of the gut to allow immune cells in and out. The data displays a positive effect of this dietary fiber to increase microglial function. Diets that contain more fiber could offset age-related gut bacterial dysbiosis, possibly helping restore neurological function.