There is a growing insight regarding the role of the gut micro flora and gut fermentation as modulator of host metabolism, appetite, systemic low-grade inflammation, and obesity. The metabolic “crosstalk” between the gut and peripheral tissues has been suggested to be regulated through colonic fermentation of indigestible dietary components, principally carbohydrates. In addition to the crosstalk between colon and the periphery, a crosstalk between the gut and brain exists. Several appetite regulatory gut hormones are signalling to the brain (the “gut-brain axis”), regulating hunger and satiety. In addition to being involved in energy regulation, some of the hormones are involved in cognitive function. For example, some of these hormones and its receptors are expressed in brain areas important for memory and learning, and GLP-1 and its analogues have been shown to have neuro-protective effects, and have additionally shown promising properties with respect to Alzheimer’s disease. In conclusion, metabolism, appetite regulation, and memory functions, are regulated by gut derived hormones; a relation referred to as the gut-brain axis, and specific prebiotic dietary fibre may be involved in this regulation. More knowledge in the area related to the gut-brain axis will increase the possibility to develop foods with metabolic and cognitive benefits.
We have shown that it is possible to increase the release of gut hormones by consumption of foods including specific dietary fibre compositions. For example, it was found that dietary fibre composition in beans and barley kernels based products may be potent in this respect. We hypothesize that foods that increase the release of the above described hormones may improve not only cardio metabolic risk markers and satiety signalling, but also cognitive functions via the gut-brain axis.
Project leader; PhD Anne Nilsson.