A recent study by the Baycrest Foundation suggests that the gut microbiome may play a role in how diet and exercise affect brain health and dementia risk. This knowledge can help scientists and clinicians improve strategies for preventing dementia.
Lifestyle interventions to reduce dementia risk often include diet and exercise, which are known to affect the gut microbiome – the community of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our gut.
“We know that imbalances in the microbiome are associated with cognitive impairment,” says Noah Koblensky, lead author of the study and exercise physiologist and project coordinator at the Rotman Research Institute (RRI) in Baycrest. “However, we don’t know much about the role of the microbiome when we use lifestyle interventions, such as diet and exercise, to support brain health. Can we design lifestyle interventions to specifically target the gut microbiome, and will that help improve their impact on cognition? In the revised study, we aimed to address this knowledge gap.”
To this end, Koplinsky and his team reviewed all existing research on diet and exercise interventions that looked at both the microbiome and brain health. The study was published in Gerontology Journals: Series A.
They found that the gut microbiome appears to play a role in how diet and exercise affect brain health, although more research is needed to fully understand how.
Diet studies have shown a significant effect of diet on the microbiome, with foods associated with a Mediterranean-style eating pattern (eg, fiber and healthy fats) appearing to have the greatest benefit for a healthy gut microbiome and brain. One study in 1,200 older adults looked at the effect of diet on both cognition and the microbiome. Half of the participants were asked to follow a Mediterranean diet for 12 months, while the other half were not. Those in the Mediterranean diet group showed significant improvements in cognition. Also, those who followed the diet more closely had healthier microbiomes linked to better brain health.
In another study, researchers used antibiotics to “kill” the gut microbiome in a sample of mice. They then cultured the microbiome (fecal) of those mice from mice that had been fed an unhealthy diet or a healthy diet. Mice that received the transplant from the unhealthy diet group showed worse memory performance, as well as inflammation in the gut and brain.
These findings support the idea that the microbiome plays a role in the way diet affects brain health.
The researchers found fewer studies looking at exercise. However, those who indicated that starting exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, can lead to changes in the gut microbiome and brain health at the same time.
This area of research is still in its infancy, and most of the studies that researchers have reviewed have looked at rodents and individual food components (for example, fiber) rather than whole diet patterns (such as the Mediterranean diet). Overall, the researchers found a clear need for more studies of complete diet and exercise interventions looking at both the microbiome and brain health, particularly in older adults at risk for dementia.
The researchers are now launching a randomized controlled diet and exercise program and are looking to secure funding to include analysis of changes in the microbiome.
Lead Scientist Dr Nicole Anderson says: “By understanding better how changes to the gut microbiome affect the relationship between lifestyle and brain health, we can enhance current lifestyle interventions and create new strategies to reduce dementia risk, helping older adults everywhere without fear”. at RRI, co-scientific director of the Kimel Family Center for Brain Health and Wellness at Baycrest, and senior author of this study.
This research was supported by a grant from the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) with funding from several partners.
#Gut #microbiome #plays #role #lifestyle #influences #dementia #risk #ScienceDaily