Cheap fibre supplement can improve your memory in just 12 weeks: Scientists say they are ‘excited’ by discovery

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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A daily fibre supplement can improve brain function in the over-60s in just 12 weeks, a study found.  

Researchers at King’s College London found the pills, sold cheaply at health food shops, can improve performance in memory tests associated with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Mary Ni Lochlainn said: ‘We are excited to see these changes in just 12 weeks. 

‘This holds huge promise for enhancing brain health and memory in our ageing population.

‘Unlocking the secrets of the gut-brain axis could offer new approaches for living more healthily for longer.’

The study, published in Nature Communications, tested two plant fibre supplements, inulin and FOS, to see if they impacted muscle health and brain function.

The study tested two plant fibre supplements, inulin and FOS, to see if they impacted muscle health and brain function. Pictured, one brand of inulin supplements, Bioglan

Changes in humour and swearing more are all signs of Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) a type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language

Changes in humour and swearing more are all signs of Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) a type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language

The pills, which contain plant fibres that help healthy bacteria grow in the gut, were given to one half of 36 pairs of twins. The others were given placebo tablets.

Everyone in the study also carried out resistance exercises and ate a protein supplement aimed at improving muscle function.

While there was no significant change in muscle strength, the subjects taking the fibre supplements performed better in tests assessing brain function.

They showed an improvement in the Paired Associates Learning test, which is an early marker for Alzheimer’s disease, and tests of reaction time and processing speed. 

These are important for daily tasks such as reacting to traffic or stopping a simple trip from turning into a fall.

Professor Claire Steves said: ‘These plant fibres, which are cheap and available over the counter, could benefit a wide group of people in these cash-strapped times. They are safe and acceptable too.

‘Our next task is to see whether these effects are sustained over longer periods and in larger groups of people.’

The prevalence of conditions such as cognitive decline and muscle loss is rising as the world’s population ages.

What is Alzheimer’s and how is it treated? 

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink. 

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.

WHAT HAPPENS?

As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost. 

That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason. 

The progress of the disease is slow and gradual. 

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.

EARLY SYMPTOMS:

  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call 

LATER SYMPTOMS:

  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior 
  • Eventually lose ability to walk
  • May have problems eating 
  • The majority will eventually need 24-hour care   

HOW IT IS TREATED?

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

However, some treatments are available that help alleviate some of the symptoms.

One of these is Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which helps brain cells communicate to one another. 

Another is menantine which works by blocking a chemical called glutamate that can build-up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease inhibiting mental function. 

As the disease progresses Alzheimer’s patients can start displaying aggressive behaviour and/or may suffer from depression. Drugs can be provided to help mitigate these symptoms.   

Other non-pharmaceutical treatments like mental training to improve memory helping combat the one aspect of Alzheimer’s disease is also recommended. 

 Source: Alzheimer’s Association and the NHS

LondonAlzheimer’s Disease

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