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New study says fiber supplements can improve brain health in older Americans

Dr. Newsome says fiber helps with brain health, but also exercise, good sleep, and exploring new things to challenge the brain.
Dr. Newsome says fiber helps with brain health, but also exercise, good sleep, and exploring new things to challenge the brain.

Most Americans don’t consume enough fiber in their diet, but a new study finds older Americans would benefit from it.

A test of 36 pairs of twins over 60 determined use of a fiber supplementimproved brain function.

Texas Health neurologist Dr. Donna Newsome, a Neurologist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, says we should have been making use of fiber all along.

I remember my grandmother telling me all the time “make sure you eat plenty of fiber”. It's true. You really do need to have fiber to stay healthy.

It's a carbohydrate, but unlike your typical carbohydrates, you know it's metabolizing. Or it goes undigested in your body like other carbohydrates. It's not broken down into sugars. It regulates your blood sugar. It keeps you from being as hungry as you want to think you should be, and also obviously helps the flow of stuff going through your intestine. So it's a great thing to have.

Whole grains, bananas, legumes, leeks. There are so many things out there that have fiber in it. It's just that we as a whole aren’t eating these things like we used to. That's the problem.

We live in a world with fast food restaurants, which are wonderful. I mean, our busy schedules. It's hard to plan out a healthy meal as healthy as we want to have when it's okay to eat those first few things every once while. But we just got to remember, hey, if we're not going be able to eat these fibers regularly as we should, here are some supplements that may help your brain health, particularly as we get older.

The supplements are a kind of prebiotic

Yeah, prebiotics are basically like a pill or something that can help build up those good bacteria in your gut.

What do prebiotics have to do with the brain and cognitive function?

When you eat anything, it gets broken down in your gut. And these prebiotics are just basically those supplements that have broken down to your gut. It gets metabolized into the bloodstream and fortunately can get past the blood-brain barrier into the brain and help your brain.

By the time it gets to your brain, and you have to take these things, like everything else, they help bring health. You have to do this regularly. Not that once every blue moon you can have an apple once a month. You've got to have it every day, have your legumes every day, have this prebiotics supplement. It's something you do on a regular basis.

That can help your brain health and decrease any type of decline in cognition. It helps your reaction time, your processing speed, and that's been shown to be helpful with older people.

Now, we all know that we want to get older, and in this generation, we are living maybe 20 years plus longer than the generation before us. So, dementia is an issue we need to be aware of, and make sure we can protect ourselves as much as we can from getting dementia or any type of cognitive decline. So having these prebiotics and the foods that may supplement the examples of prebiotics and fiber and things of that nature can help our brain function.

Does any of this have anything to do with what's called the gut-brain axis?

I think so. There's so much about the brain that we don't fully understand. It's all connected. It just makes sense. It all has to be connected. We know what we put in. A good helps the rest of our body, you know, helps your heart, your muscles and everything else. Why wouldn't it help your brain as well?

It has to metabolize. It's got to go through your bloodstream to blushing. Has to give nutrition to your brain. So it makes perfectly good sense that what you eat is going to help your brain health.

Is the extra fiber alone enough to make this difference? 

Brain health is not just about eating well. Brain health is also exercising. Getting a good amount of sleep, not just for a few hours. At least, you know, eight to nine hours sleep a night. It's meditation. It's challenging the brain with reading, learning new languages, and exploring new and different things. Brain health is not just one thing. It's a combination of a whole lot of things put together.


Brains of Older Adults Boosted in Just 12 Weeks by Daily Fiber Supplement


Daily fibre supplement improves older adults’ brain function, study suggests

Effect of gut microbiome modulation on muscle function and cognition: the PROMOTe randomised controlled trial

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Sam Baker