New study suggests fibre supplements may boost memory in seniors


We all know that fibre is crucial for keeping our digestive system in check. From helping with weight management to reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, fibre plays a vital role in maintaining overall healthcare.

But could fibre supplements also have benefits for brain function, especially in older adults? A recent study seems to think so.

Published in Nature Communications, this study followed individuals aged 60 and above over a 12-week period. The results were intriguing: those who took prebiotic fibre supplements showed a significant improvement in memory.

But why the interest in fibre’s impact on brain health? The study delved into the relationship between the gut microbiome and cognitive function as we age. As we get older, our gut microbiome becomes less resilient, making it more susceptible to diseases and medications.

To test the effects of fibre supplements, participants were divided into groups, with some receiving a placebo and others taking the fibre supplement. After the 12-week period, they underwent a series of visual memory tests.

“This particular cognitive test has clinical significance, having been identified as an early identifier of Alzheimer’s dementia,” the study noted. The researchers observed changes in both muscle physiology and cognitive behaviour after inducing changes in the gut microbiota.

However, it’s essential to interpret these findings with caution. With only 72 out of 626 individuals participating in the study, the results should be viewed as preliminary. Dr. Thomas R. Vidic, a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, emphasised that while the findings are fascinating, research on the gut-brain connection is still in its early stages.

Dr Amy Reichelt, a nutrition and neuroscience researcher, echoed this sentiment, highlighting that the study suggests an association between fibre supplements and better cognition rather than a direct causal effect.

While the exact mechanism behind fibre’s potential cognitive benefits remains unclear, previous research has shown a link between gut microbiota and mental health. A study from 2023 found that certain gut microbiota can influence mood, anxiety, and depression, further underscoring the importance of gut health for overall well-being.

As scientists continue to explore the intricate relationship between fibre, gut health, and cognitive function, incorporating fibre-rich foods and supplements into our diet may offer potential benefits beyond digestive health, especially as we age.

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