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Eating more fibre may play a key role in healthy ageing

We all know the benefits of eating more fibre, especially for its role in keeping our digestive tract healthy and keeping us more ‘regular’. Now researchers from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia have uncovered what they believe is an unexpected benefit, in that it can also help us to avoid the diseases and disabilities associated with ageing.

The Australian scientists used data taken from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which collected information relating to the risk factors for long-term sensory loss and systemic diseases from more than 1600 adults aged over 50, over a 10 year period. They used this data to explore the relationship between healthy ageing and the consumption of carbohydrates. Their results proved to be rather surprising to say the least, in that they found that fibre had the biggest impact on what the scientists classified as ‘successful ageing’, particularly as fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the body. For the terms of their study they defined successful ageing as ‘an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory problems and chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease, stroke and cancer.

From their analysis the team found that those people who consumed the greatest amount of fibre had an almost 80% greater chance of living a long, and most importantly, healthy life, in that they were less likely to suffer from dementia, depression, hypertension and diabetes.

This study is the first of its type to look at the role of carbohydrate intake in healthy ageing, and the lead author of the paper believes that the results are of sufficient significance to warrant further studies to be carried out. Although it is still too early to use the results to formulate new dietary advice, it has opened up new avenues to explore the subject further. In particular, it would be interesting to see if other large cohort studies could find similar associations to those found by the Westmead team. However, this recent finding does back up existing knowledge, that a healthy diet is vital for ensuring optimum functional and mental health.

This research paper was published online in The Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

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