SCFAs are produced when microorganisms that live in the gut ferment dietary fibers. According to fundamental research, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) protect muscles against the aging process, we wrote a few months ago. If this fundamental research is correct, then people over 50 who eat a lot of dietary fiber should be stronger than their peers in their diet. And according to an epidemiological study that Taiwanese scientists published in PLoS One in 2013, this is indeed the case.
The Taiwanese used the data of 2680 people over 50. These data was gathered between 2008 and 2010 in the Healthy Aging Longitudinal Study, a research project with which the Taiwanese government wants to get a better picture of the lifestyle that ensures that people can not only grow old, but can also stay healthy until old age.
The researchers used questionnaires and databases to find out how many dietary fibers the study participants consumed daily. In addition, they determined with a few simple but proven tests how fit and strong the study participants were.
#1 Gait speed: determined by observing participants walk 4 meters at their usual pace, and timing the task. Gait speed was calculated as meters walked divided by time (s).
#2 The 6-minute walk test: participants were encouraged to walk as many meters as possible in 6 minutes.
#3 Timed up & go test: participants were observed standing up from a chair, walking 3 meters at their usual pace, turning around, and walking back to sit in the chair.
#4 Global lower extremity performance: a summary performance score using the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). The SPPB includes the measurement of gait speed, standing balance, and time taken to rise 5 times from a chair.
#5 Hand grip strength: measured using a North Coast hand dynamometer.
The more fibers the subjects consumed, the stronger and fitter they were.
Click on the figure below for a larger version.
“In conclusion, dietary fiber intake is independently and positively associated with physical performance in older adults”, summarize the researchers. “Dietary fiber may offer protection against disability associated with old age.”
“Further prospective observational studies are needed to confirm the relationships we observed. Intervention trials might be warranted to determine whether increasing people’s fiber intake reduces their functional decline.”