Diet high in guar gum fiber limits inflammation and symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Summary: Diets rich in guar gum, a dietary fiber and common food additive extracted from guar beans, limit inflammation and delay the onset of multiple sclerosis in mouse models.

Source: University of British Columbia

Diets rich in guar gum, a common food additive and dietary fiber, limited inflammation and delayed the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms in mice, according to new research by members of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology from the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“The rapid increase in autoimmune and inflammatory disorders in industrialized countries in recent decades indicates that dietary choices are an environmental factor contributing to incidence,” said Dr. Lisa Osborne, the study’s principal investigator and assistant professor of Microbiology and Immunology of the UBC.

“Dietary fibers are powerful modulators of immune responses and can control inflammation in multiple diseases, but they are a very diverse family biochemically. Our study gives us a clearer window into the potential of various sources of fiber to maintain immune health “.

Dr. Osborne and colleagues exposed groups of mice to a variety of diets: a control diet of five percent cellulose fiber, a diet completely lacking in dietary fiber, or diets enriched (30%) with starch fiber resistant, inulin, pectin or guar gum. Quar gum was the only type of fiber that significantly limited MS-like symptoms.

Guar gum (guaran) is extracted from guar beans and is often used as an additive to thicken and stabilize food and feed, and in industrial applications. India and Pakistan are the main producers of beans.

“Guar beans are not that common in Western diets, and the gum is not used at these high levels as an additive in the West,” says Naomi Fettig, first author of the study and a Ph.D. student in the Department of of Microbiology and Immunology at UBC.

Guar gum (guaran) is extracted from guar beans and is often used as an additive to thicken and stabilize food and feed, and in industrial applications. The image is in the public domain

“Experts have been consistently saying that fiber is good for you, and a variety of sources of fiber is important for immune health, but there hasn’t been much critical work to identify how the body responds to different types of fiber. It’s fascinating that this particular source has such an impact.”

In the United States and Canada, the average daily intake of fiber is 15 grams; current recommendations are twice that of 30 grams. The recommended values ​​do not take into account any specific fiber type.

“The incorporation of guar beans can be difficult to achieve at the doses we gave the mice,” says Dr. Osborne. “But a derivative of guar gum, partially hydrolyzed guar gum, is commercially available as a prebiotic.”

After the gum was broken down by the mice’s microbiota, the resulting molecules appeared to reduce the activity and proliferation of a type of CD4+ T cells, Th1 cells, which play a key role in activating the autoimmune response. It is this response that leads to MS-like symptoms in mice.

The effects of fiber on Th1 cells remained largely unknown before this study, and these findings suggest that biochemical differences in fiber structures may influence several immune pathways.

Dr. Osborne and his lab now want to explore the potential benefits in humans, including developing a more detailed understanding of the molecular picture, which could help design therapeutics that deliver the benefits of these guar gum diets in a more practical way .

About this diet and multiple sclerosis research news

Author: Chris Balma
Source: University of British Columbia
Contact: Chris Balma – University of British Columbia
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access
“Inhibition of Th1 Activation and Differentiation by Dietary Guar Gum Ameliorates Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis” by Lisa Osborne et al. Cell reports

See also

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Inhibition of Th1 activation and differentiation by dietary guar gum ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis


  • Individual sources of dietary fiber have different impacts on T-cell subsets
  • Dietary fiber guar gum impairs Th1 polarization and alters migratory potential
  • Guar gum elevates short-chain fatty acids but does not affect regulatory T cells
  • Guar gum supplementation significantly delays autoimmune neuroinflammation


Dietary fibers are potent modulators of immune responses that can curb inflammation in multiple disease contexts.

However, dietary fibers encompass a biochemically diverse family of carbohydrates, and how individual fiber sources influence immunity remains unknown.

In a head-to-head comparison of four different high-fiber diets, we demonstrate a potent ability of guar gum to delay disease and neuroinflammation in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a cell-mediated mouse model of multiple sclerosis T.

Guar gum-specific alterations in the microbiota are limited, and disease protection appears to be independent of fiber-induced increases in short-chain fatty acid levels or regulatory CD4.+ T cells. Instead, CD4+ T cells from guar gum-supplemented mice are less encephalitogenic due to reduced activation, proliferation, Th1 differentiation, and altered migratory potential.

These findings reveal specificity in the host response to fiber sources and define a fiber-induced immunomodulation pathway that protects against pathological neuroinflammation.

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