Diets high in guar gum, a common food additive and dietary fibre, limited inflammation and delayed the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms in mice, according to new research.
“The rapid increase of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders in industrialized countries in the last few decades indicates dietary choices are one environmental factor contributing to incidence,” said the senior researcher on the study.
“Dietary fibres are potent modulators of immune responses and can control inflammation in multiple diseases, but they’re a very biochemically diverse family. Our study gives us a clearer window into the potential of several sources of fibre in maintaining immune health.”
The researchers exposed groups of mice to a variety of diets—a control five percent cellulose fibre diet, a diet entirely lacking in dietary fibre, or diets enriched (30%) with fibre in either resistant starch, inulin, pectin, or guar gum. Quar gum was the only fibre type that significantly limited the MS-like symptoms.
Guar gum—guaran—is extracted from guar beans, and is often used as an additive to thicken and stabilize food and animal feed, and in industrial applications. India and Pakistan are major growers of the bean.
“Guar beans aren’t that common in western diets, and the gum isn’t used at these high levels as an additive in the west,” says the first author on the study.
“Experts have consistently been saying fibre is good for you—and a variety of fibre sources is important to immune health—but there hasn’t been very much critical work into identifying how the body responds to different fibre types. It’s fascinating that this particular source has such an impact.”
In the US and Canada, the average daily intake of fibre is 15 grams—current recommendations are double that at 30 grams. The recommended values don’t take into account any specific fibre type. “Incorporating guar beans might be challenging to achieve at the doses we gave to mice,” says the senior author. “But a guar gum derivative, partially hydrolyzed guar gum, is commercially available as a prebiotic.”
After the gum is broken down by the microbiota of mice, the resulting molecules appeared to reduce the activity and proliferation of a type of CD4+ T cells, Th1 cells, that play a key part in activating the autoimmune response. It’s that response that leads to MS-like symptoms in mice. The effects of fibre on Th1 cells remained largely unknown prior to this study, and these findings suggest that the biochemical differences in fibre structures can influence diverse immune pathways.
The lab now want to explore the potential benefits in humans—including developing a more detailed understanding of the molecular picture, which might help design therapeutics that offer the benefits of such high guar gum diets in a more practical form.
The findings were published in Cell Reports.
Diet high in guar gum fibre limits inflammation, MS symptoms in mice
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