In a post last week titled This is Your Brain On Fiber, we presented a mountain of evidence pointing to a very solid link between gut microbiota and brain functioning. And we did this in service of establishing a case between fermentable fiber intake and brain functioning. After all, if fermentable fiber intake is the primary modulator of gut microbiota, then the fiber –> brain link is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Well, it looks like that game of hopscotch has concluded.
Just three days after that post, a new study was released, and it’s just what I’ve been waiting for. A collaborative study by the Oxford University psychiatry department and prebiotic manufacturer Clasado has shown, for the first time, that consumption of prebiotic, fermentable fiber can significantly impact the brain by modulating gut microbiota.
The study fed rats either FOS (fructooligosaccharides) or GOS (galactooligosaccharides). And here’s what happened:
In both cases significant effects on the neuronal biochemistry of the rats were demonstrated. These effects are believed to have resulted from changes in the gut microbiota including an increase in bifidobacteria facilitated via the feeding of prebiotics. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), an important molecule involved in the development and maintenance of neural cells, increased in the brain after repeated ingestion of prebiotics, compared with rats that did not receive the prebiotics. Additionally, components of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which have a critical role in brain development, learning and memory, also increased in the rat brain after just two weeks of daily prebiotic feedings.
Those effects were the same ones that were presented in the last post, in studies where microbiota were manipulated through direct introduction of bacteria or through antimocrobial therapies. What was missing was using prebiotic, fermentable fiber as a precipitator of microbial changes. With this study, that is no longer missing. The news report notes that human clinical trials are also underway, and results of those will be released soon.
To those experimenting with high dose fermentable fiber and noticing changes & improvements in mood and cognition: you might not be so crazy after all. In fact, if this study holds true for humans, you may be less crazy than when you started.
With this in hand, we’ve got enough under our belts to confidently pick up where we left off. Stay tuned.