We’re always hearing that we should eat more fiber.
We need fiber to maintain a healthy digestive system. Also, dietary fiber can reduce cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.
Now, research is finding that fiber is also important for a healthy brain. Given what we know about the gut-brain connection, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
In a new study, a group of Japanese experts in public health, epidemiology and cardiovascular health have revealed a link between a high-fiber diet and a reduced risk of developing dementia.
More fiber now means less risk of dementia later
The study, known as the Circulatory Risk in Communities Study, was recently published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. It involved 3739 Japanese individuals who were between the ages of 40 and 64 when the study began in 1985.
Between 1985 and 1999, these individuals completed surveys that assessed their daily diets, focusing on fiber intake.
From 1999 to 2020, these same people were followed to see whether they developed dementia that required care.
By splitting the data on all of these subjects into four groups, according to the amount of fiber in their diets, the researchers found that the groups who ate higher levels of fiber had a lower risk of developing dementia.
Soluble fiber is what your gut needs
The team also wanted to know whether there was a difference between soluble and insoluble fiber in terms of dementia risk.
Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains and vegetables and is important for bowel health.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is the fiber that is vital to the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats and legumes.
When the fiber in question was soluble fiber, the study found a stronger link between fiber intake and lower risk of dementia.
The research team has some ideas about why that might be.
“The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain,” says Professor Kazumasa Yamagishi of the University of Tsukuba School of Medicine.
“One possibility is that soluble fiber regulates the composition of gut bacteria. This composition may affect neuroinflammation, which plays a role in the onset of dementia.”
In other words, chronic inflammation is known to be a factor in the development of dementia and other neurological diseases, so if soluble fiber improves gut health and controls neuroinflammation, it will also reduce the likelihood of developing dementia.
How to get eat more fiber and like it
There’s abundant evidence that most of us aren’t getting enough fiber.
Yet, fiber-rich foods are everywhere! It’s just a matter of working more fruits and vegetables into your diet in ways that are pleasing to you.
And here’s a list of foods containing a fair amount of soluble fiber:
Light-red kidney beans
Many of these foods contain inulin, a starchy carbohydrate found in high quantities in chickory root and the Jerusalem artichoke. Inulin is recognized to have prebiotic qualities which is beneficial to the composition of gut bacteria — perfect for that gut-brain connection.
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Food for thought: A high-fiber diet may reduce risk of dementia — Science Daily
Dietary fiber intake and risk of incident disabling dementia: the Circulatory Risk in Communities Study — Nutritional Neuroscience
Neuroinflammation: A Potential Risk for Dementia — International Journal of Molecular Sciences