(Natural News) A study published in the journal Nature Communications showed that a fiber-rich diet could aid in the treatment of chronic inflammatory joint diseases through the increased production of short-chained fatty acids (SCFA) in the microbiome.
The researchers discovered that when higher concentrations of SCFA are present, for example in bone marrow, the propionate gave rise to a reduction in the number of bone-degrading cells.
“We were able to show that a bacteria-friendly diet has an anti-inflammatory effect, as well as a positive effect on bone density,” said Dr. Mario Zaiss, of the Institute of Microengineering at Friedrich Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nurnberg.
According to Zaiss and his colleagues, when mice are treated SCFA – as well as given a high-fiber diet – they experienced significantly increased bone mass. The researchers further found out that SCFA prevented postmenopausal and inflammation-induced bone loss.
The team added that SCFA’s propionate and butyrate encouraged metabolic programming of osteoclasts, which led to the downregulation of essential osteoclast genes like TRAF6 and NFATc1. (Related: Dietary fiber found to reduce osteoarthritis knee pain in first-ever study of its kind.)
“Here we show a hitherto undiscovered role of SCFA on bone homeostasis. Our data suggest that microbial homeostasis in the gut associated with adequate production of SCFA is an important regulatory element in determining bone composition in mice,” the researchers said.
According to the German team, how intestinal bacteria and our immune system communicates is still a mystery. On the other hand, because of the new study, the researchers say that benefits on bone density and autoimmune conditions may not be because of the effects of a particular microbial species per se, but from the composition of secreted microbial metabolites. In particular, this pertains to SCFA, which can be presumed to connect gut and bone homeostasis.
“Our findings offer a promising approach for developing innovative therapies for inflammatory joint diseases as well as for treating osteoporosis, which is often suffered by women after the menopause. We are not able to give any specific recommendations for a bacteria-friendly diet at the moment, but eating muesli every morning as well as enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day helps to maintain a rich variety of bacterial species,” Dr. Zaiss said.
Fiber and inflammation
We need two types of fiber in our body: soluble and insoluble. Mixed with water, soluble fiber forms a gel, which helps regulate digestion, thus aiding the body in absorbing nutrients better, and also lowering total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels. Fiber can be found in foods like oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and barley.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, makes it easier to manage the digestive system. It adds bulk to stool to prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and wheat brain.
Some studies showed that some people who consumed diets that are high in fiber have lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in their blood. CRP is an inflammation marker that has been associated with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.
“It’s not possible to say that eating more fruits, vegetables, and other high-fiber foods will help arthritis specifically, but reducing CRP is another good reason to get more fiber,” said Dana E. King, professor and chair of family medicine at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Americans who aren’t receiving enough fiber from their daily diet have wondered if fiber supplements could do the trick on inflammation. To find out more about this, Dr. King initiated a small study in 2007 in which people were randomly assigned to either ingest a high-fiber diet (about 30 grams per day) or supplement their diet with psyllium fiber.
The study showed that higher fiber intake, whether from regular foods or a supplement, lowered CRP levels. However, this effect is not applicable to people who are overweight. “It went down about 40 percent in people who were overweight,” Dr. King said.
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