Gut instinct: fibre fights asthma, diabetes.
The research found fibre is key to stimulating immune cells.
Scientists have found eating fibre boosts the immune system, keeping a lid on inflammatory diseases such as asthma and type 1 diabetes.
Eating fibre is already thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers, and now Australian researchers from the Garvan institute have found this new benefit.
Professor Charles MacKay is the lead author of the paper which has been published in the journal Nature.
“The important finding is that we provide a direct link between what we eat and the breakdown of this food in the gut by micro-organisms and immune responses, particularly inflammatory responses like asthma and auto-immune diseases,” he said.
He says the key is fibre.
“We can’t digest fibre ourselves but our bacteria can and the products of this metabolism in the gastrointestinal tract are substances called short chain fatty acids,” he said.
“These directly stimulate immune cells and keep a lid on inflammatory responses like asthma and type 1 diabetes and colitis and so forth. And so what we believe, is that our changes in diet in Western countries have led to this increase in inflammatory diseases.”
Professor MacKay says there has been mounting evidence that changes in diet have had an impact on these diseases.
“It was certainly the main suspect,” he said.
“But what was really lacking were the molecular explanations. What is it in diets? What particular food stuff and molecular mechanism could explain these changes? We don’t claim to have the final answer but at least we now have a candidate that might explain it and for which we can do future studies.”
He says to decrease the prevalence of inflammatory diseases it may be as simple as eating more fibre.
“I think these are the sort of things that we need to study,” he said.
“I personally believe that fibre is the likely cause and I think these sorts of studies are going to need careful clinical trials to ascertain whether it is fibre.
“Other candidates that have been suggested is that types of saturated fats that have changed over the years in Western societies. There are vitamins that have been suggested so it could be any number of things.”
The research has been carried out using mice but Professor MacKay says it is reasonable to assume the results can be transferred to humans.
“It’s not an absolute given but it’s reasonable that we’ll see the same effects in other animals and in humans.”
He says he has the research has prompted him to try and change his diet.
“I’ve tried but it’s very difficult, with all this tempting food out there, to be good.”
Source: By Barbara Miller for AM ABC News