We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for a lot of things – but did you know that inulin can even benefit your memory? Or that it can help counter aging effects on your brain? A team of scientists are looking into the role prebiotics play in countering various effects in our bodies as we grow older. Here’s why you should include more fruits and veggies in your diet.

By Emilie Korsgaard Andreasen

When we grow older, so do a lot of the functions and systems of our bodies. Time changes our immune system, cardiovascular system and gut microbiota1. During middle-age various physiological changes occur, including adaptations that can lead to influence brain function. How this happens and why is still a mystery to scientists, but new research is discovering how modifying composition of our gut bugs with a certain diet can lessen inflammation in the brain, and even go so far to affect how our brain ages. 

Is inulin the fountain of youth?

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that, among other things, promote certain beneficial gut bacteria in the intestines2. Inulin is found in a wide range of foods, but mainly in fruits, vegetables and herbs. Some of the most well-known inulin rich foods are wheat, onions, bananas, leeks, artichokes and asparagus2.

Patients with gastrointestinal conditions that interrupt the gut-brain axis such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, have a greater risk of dementia

Nevertheless, what does a prebiotic diet have to do with emotions and behavior in our middle-age? Well, according to a team of scientists from the University of Cork, quite a lot.

Patients with gastrointestinal conditions that interrupt the gut-brain axis, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, post a greater risk for dementia2. The gut microbiome has been implicated as a key mediator in the communication between the gut and brain. This new research has tested whether a diet of prebiotics altered microglia activation and brain function in ageing, and even whether this can potentially help conditions such as dementia3.

Protecting the brain with plants

By feeding young adult mice and middle-aged mice a prebiotic diet or control chow for 14 weeks, results suggested that prebiotic supplementation altered the gut microbiota profile in both age groups. The probiotics reversed microglia activation in the middle-aged mouse brain towards young adult levels, with the effects being visible in key regions of the brain which regulates learning and memory. The scientists are optimistic that targeting the gut microbiota can help modulate the peripheral immune response, alter neuroinflammation in middle age and prevent cognitive decline such as dementia3. The scientists conclude that this may indeed prove to be the way to go in future research and may eventually help develop a treatment.

Prebiotics may help us both improve our cognitive function and avoid behavioral changes, and a diet of fruits and veggies could be the way to go to promote healthy aging by protecting the brain function

Make your diet green-centric

So, what can the greens do for you? Prebiotics are great for a wide variety of things, including improving reaction time, mood, learning memory and working memory. And not just that; adding 5g of inulin to your breakfast has also been shown to improve episodic memory (free recall and recognition memory). As the new research suggests, prebiotics may help us both improve our cognitive function and avoid behavioral changes. It’s clear: a diet high in fruits and veggies is the way to go to promote healthy aging by protecting your brain function2.

Are you getting enough of the good stuff?

You may be wondering, how much is needed to support your brain power? Well, scientists suggest that prebiotic doses of ~5-10 g/day are safe to improve brain function (learning and working memory) and behavior (anxiety and mood) for healthy people of young or middle-aged adults2.

More research is definitely needed into just how the brain is positively affected by a prebiotic diet, but so far, the results are promising and give us even more motivation to make sure we get those veggies everyday. Make sure to bulk up on the greens and the fruit to improve your mind!

Now, perhaps you’re still not sure what to add to your diet to make sure you treat your gut microbiome right? At GUTXY we’re ready to help you put together some great options of inulin-rich foods for you to add to your diet to improve your gut, brain and mind. We’re ready to help you take the first steps towards a happy and healthy microbiome. Simply get your Snapshot today! 


References:

  1. Cryan et al. (2019) Is the fountain of youth in the microbiome? The Journal of Physiology. 597.9. 2323-2324.
  2. Serra et al. (2019) Prebiotic intake in older adults: effect on the brain function and behavior. Current Nutrition Reports. 8;2. 66-73.
  3. Cryan et al. (2019) Mid-life microbiota crises: middle age is associated with pervasive neuroimmune alterations that are reversed by targeting the gut microbiome. Molecular Psychiatry.