A recent study suggests that a higher fiber intake could help lower the risk of cognitive decline in older adults carrying a specific gene, ApoE ε4, which increases their susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease.
Fiber, a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods, is known for its multitude of health benefits, including promoting digestive health, lowering blood cholesterol levels, reducing heart disease risk, and helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
Recent research has also highlighted fiber’s potential positive impact on brain health and cognitive function.
The study focused on the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, specifically the ε4 variant, recognized as the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
People inheriting one copy of the ε4 variant face an increased risk of developing the disease, and this risk escalates further for those inheriting two copies.
However, possessing this variant doesn’t guarantee the onset of Alzheimer’s, as many other factors can influence the risk.
Researchers followed 848 volunteers, aged over 65, for 15 years, monitoring changes in their diets and cognitive abilities.
The study established that increasing fiber intake by 5 grams per day correlated with a 30% lower risk of cognitive decline in ApoE ε4 gene carriers.
The link, however, was not evident in participants with other versions of the gene.
Potential Mechanisms and Implications
One potential explanation for this association could be fiber’s role in reducing inflammation, which is often associated with cognitive decline and dementia.
Moreover, fiber may enhance blood flow to the brain and promote healthy gut bacteria, both of which can positively affect brain health.
While the study focused specifically on ApoE ε4 gene carriers, it’s essential to note that a high-fiber diet can benefit everyone.
The recommended daily fiber intake stands at 25-38 grams, a target often missed by most individuals.
Increasing fiber intake could be as simple as adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to one’s diet, as well as opting for high-fiber snacks like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
This study further bolsters the growing body of evidence linking a fiber-rich diet to improved cognitive function and overall health.
By simply modifying dietary habits to increase fiber intake, people of all ages can support their brain health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases.
The research, conducted by Andrea Unión-Caballero et al, is published in Age and Ageing.
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