Alzheimer’s disease – is fibre good for the brain?

by | Nov 11, 2023 | healthy ageing, mind and mood

Dementia is now the leading cause of death in England, ahead of cancer and heart disease. Yet, while many people might know someone that has survived cancer, how many people with Alzheimer’s disease do you know that have got better, or even improved? Currently conventional medicine has no treatment for Alzheimers disease that does anything but slightly delay progression of the disease. A situation that is unlikely to change in the near future. Not because of a lack of research. A quick search on the Pubmed database reveals over a hundred thousand research papers on Alzheimer’s disease. But, even if a cure for Alzheimer’s was found today, it takes an average of seventeen years to translate findings such as these into treatments available to the public.

In any case, there are many researchers that believe that Alzheimer’s disease will not be cured with a single medicine. If it can be cured at all. In fact, it seems that, as with many chronic diseases, prevention is better than cure. But, how can we prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Is that even possible?

In this article, Dr Bredesen describes how years of research led him to conclude that there is not one single route or pill to prevent Alzheimer’s but many pathways which must be addressed. He describes a personalised approach that has led to reversals in the cognitive decline of early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

For instance, one of the factors of the many that should be addressed is a leaky gut. Research published in 2017 explains why. It describes how certain species of gut microbes create and secrete toxins called lipopolysaccharides. These toxins not only promote a leaky gut but once in the bloodstream they can travel to the brain and cross the blood-brain barrier. The so-called gut microbiome-brain axis. Lipopolysaccharides are known potent toxins that cause brain inflammation. In fact, researchers describe the immune stimulation provoked by these lipopolysaccharides in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease as a “chronic state of self-reinforcing inflammation.”

A higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is linked to having the ApoE4 gene. Though not everyone that has the gene develops the disease. In work published this year, researchers describe how the chronic inflammatory state caused by toxins from the gut, might lead to a change in gene expression. In effect switching on the gene that leads to the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers suggest that one way to prevent this from happening is to target the microbial species that create the toxins. They explain that the balance of the gut microbiobial population may be modifiable with probiotics, and/or through increasing dietary fibre intake, methods that I have discussed before. By modifying the microbiota, to a more healthy balance of gut bacteria, the goal is to reduce both the secretion of lipopolysaccharides and the leakiness of the gut.

If the researchers are correct this is just one more reason to eat a healthy diet containing plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, to increase dietary fibre and also provide plenty of inflammation reducing phytonutrients.


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