Fibre – the Harley for your brain?

Man with motorbike - healthy ageing

Prebiotics for Healthy Ageing

We’ve all heard of instances where a middle-aged man buys a Harley Davidson or a Ferrari to cope with the tribulations of getting older – but new research would indicate that he might be better off investing in a jar of Troo Spoonful of Fibre.  Fascinating new research from the APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre at the University of Cork suggests that eating prebiotic fibre could help with healthy ageing. The study led by Professor John F. Cryan, Professor Ted Dinan, Dr. Harriet Schellekens and Dr. Marcus Boehme is published in the leading journal Molecular Psychiatry.

We wanted to see whether an inulin enriched diet that can modulate the composition of the microbes in the gut could also improve brain health and wellbeing” says Prof. Cryan, leader of this research.

The Research Study

The study is entitled “Mid-Life Microbiota Crises: Middle Age is Associated with Pervasive Neuroimmune Alterations that are Reversed by Targeting the Gut Microbiome”.

Young adult male mice (8 weeks) and middle-aged mice (10 months) received a diet enriched with a prebiotic (10% oligofructose-enriched inulin) or control chow for 14 weeks. The prebiotic diet was seen to alter the profile of the gut microbiota in both age groups as shown by changes in the faecal metabolites.  However with the middle aged mice there was also a reversal of stress-induced immune priming; a reduction in ageing-induced infiltration of Ly-6Chi monocytes into the brain and a reversal in ageing-related increases in a subset of activated microglia (Ly-6C+) – the main immune cells of the brain.

The Key Learning

Taking all of the observations into consideration – there does appear to be a relationship between feeding the gut with prebiotic fibre and regulating brain functions, particularly in terms of emotional processing and behaviour.  The data highlights a potential strategy where consuming prebiotic fibre could help promote healthy ageing by protecting brain function and by preventing damaging age-related inflammation of the brain.

Dr Marcus Boehme confirmed “Our research suggests a diet supplemented by prebiotics reversed microglia activation in the middle-aged mice brain towards young adult levels. Moreover this reversing effect was observed in a key area of the brain which regulates learning and memory, the hippocampus“.

What Is Prebiotic Fibre?

Prebiotic Fibre is non-digested soluble fibre that helps feed the good gut bacteria.  This research used inulin which is found in a variety of vegetables including onion, jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks and garlic. Troo Spoonful of Fibre is  inulin from chicory root, a very prolific inulin source.  Inulin is also a key ingredient in Troo Granola.

What’s Next?

This study is the first of its kind and is also just on mice – so it is very early days.  It is further evidence of the relationship between the gut and the brain; but with a new spin in terms of early interventions to encourage healthy ageing and prevent age relative cognitive decline.  We’ll keep an eye on any further research in this area and update you as it becomes available.


NOTE: thanks to NutraIngredients who provided the quotes in this story.