My husband and I watch Jeopardy almost every night. Lately, I’m noticing my response time has slowed down. I know the answer, or rather the question, but I can’t come up with it as fast as I used to.
A study from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences suggests a way I can regain my competitive edge. Fiber. What?
As mammals age, immune cells in the brain known as microglia become chronically inflamed. Then they produce chemicals known to impair cognitive and motor function. That’s one explanation for why memory fades and other brain functions decline during old age.
The remedy appears to be eating more fiber. This causes good bacteria in the gut to grow. And that leads to a byproduct called butyrate. A drug called sodium butyrate has been shown to improve memory in mice, according to Professor Rodney Johnson.
His new study reveals, in old mice, that butyrate inhibits production of damaging chemicals by inflamed microglia. One of those chemicals is interleukin-1?, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
It seems sodium butyrate has a bad smell, so people are not likely to want to take it. A diet high in soluble fiber is a more pleasant alternative.
Interestingly, a low fiber diet didn’t cause gut inflammation in young mice, only old mice.
The researchers did not examine the effects of the diet on cognition. That comes next courtesy of a new, almost-$2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Johnson feels his findings in mice should apply to humans too. “What you eat matters. We know that older adults consume 40 percent less dietary fiber than is recommended. Not getting enough fiber could have negative consequences for things you don’t even think about, such as connections to brain health and inflammation in general.”
According to WebMD, foods containing high levels of soluble fiber include dried beans, oats, oat bran, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes.
That spple a day advice is right on.