My everyday diet mostly consists of protein, fish, fruits, and veggies. On the surface, this sounds like a pretty balanced way to eat. But I often fall short when it comes to getting enough fiber during the day. Fiber is important, because in addition to helping you feel full, it helps promote healthy digestion and control blood sugar levels. And after reading new research that suggests it also may help reduce dementia risk over time, incorporating more fiber into my diet sounds like an even better idea!
A recent study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience looked at whether consuming dietary fiber lessened the likelihood of developing dementia. This study involved 3,739 healthy Japanese adults who were between the ages of 40 and 64 years old. Participants completed surveys about their dietary habits between 1985 and 1999.
Researchers followed up with participants from 1999 until 2020 to see whether they developed dementia that required care. Afterwards, they split the data into four groups based on the amount of fiber in their diets. They also looked into any differing results between participants who consumed more soluble fiber, which is found in oats and legumes and is key for gut health, and those who ate more insoluble fiber, which is found in whole grains and vegetables and helps maintain healthy bowels.
The authors found that a total of 670 cases of disabling dementia occurred within the group — but adults who ate a high fiber diet had the lowest risk of the disease. What’s more, the anti-dementia benefit seemed to be stronger in those who ate a lot more soluble fiber compared to the insoluble type.
Lead study author Kazumasa Yamagishi, MD, offers a few possibilities of why this might be. “One possibility is that soluble fiber regulates the composition of gut bacteria,” he explained in a statement. “This composition may affect neuroinflammation [inflammation in the brain or spinal cord], which plays a role in the onset of dementia.”
Dr. Yamagishi adds that eating more fiber could also reduce other risk factors for dementia, including weight gain and high blood pressure. The study concluded by further emphasizing that a high fiber diet could be beneficial in decreasing the risk of dementia.
Many US women only consume an average of 16 grams of fiber a day — much lower than the USDA recommendation of 38 grams. However, it’s easy to sneak more fiber (especially the soluble kind) into your diet by having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, black beans to go with your lunch, or a side of steamed broccoli for dinner. As always, be sure to speak with your doctor about any dietary change to confirm it’s a good fit for you.
These findings give me more motivation to become a fan of fiber. Plus, I’m looking forward to brainstorming delicious ways to add it into my everyday meals!