Researchers in Japan have studied the make-up of 128 people, finding differences in the type and level of gut bacteria present in people with dementia and those without the condition. The results were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019.
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It can be a little surprising to discover that bacteria in the gut could affect the health of our brains, but there is a growing body of evidence that supports this link.
“While these new results reveal differences in the makeup of gut bacteria between people with and without dementia, this study doesn’t tell us if these directly impact a person’s dementia risk. We will need to wait until the researchers publish their full findings before we can tell what further insights we can glean from this study.
“Research into the links between gut bacteria and dementia risk is gaining momentum, and it is among the topics being explored by scientists at the UK Dementia Research Institute, the country’s largest dementia research initiative. Unpicking the microscopic details underpinning gut-brain interactions could open the door to new ways to help maintain a healthy brain into old age.
“The make-up of gut bacteria is influenced by both genetics and our lifestyle, so it is one of a number of potential dementia risk factors that we could influence by leading a healthy life. To maintain a healthy brain as we age the best current evidence suggests that we keep physically fit, eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, only drink within the recommended limits and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”
Easy tips for gut health
- Eat a wide range of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefers different foods.
- Eat more fibre. Most people eat less than they should. Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and wholegrains feed healthy bacteria.
- Avoid highly processed foods. They often contain ingredients that either suppress ‘good’ bacteria or increase ‘bad’ bacteria.
- Probiotic foods, such as live yoghurt, might encourage more microbes to grow. Eat them if you enjoy them.
- Choose extra-virgin olive oil over other fats when you can. It contains the highest number of microbe-friendly polyphenols.
- Antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your microbes afterwards.
- If your diet is low in fibre, a sudden increase can cause wind and bloating. This is less likely if you make gradual changes and drink extra water.
American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019: Gut Microbiota and Dementia: A Cross-Sectional Study
Next article: Retirement is a transition, not a cliff-edge