How to be ridiculously healthy at 90?Answers from the gut microbiome

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Probiotics have been a prominent buzzword for a while. We have all been curious about the gut bacteria that symbiotically exist within us. How do they influence us? Read more to find out.

Healthy aging may be linked to our guts- or rather to the diverse species of bacteria, known as the gut microbiome, that reside there.

Dr. Gloor and Dr. Reid from Western University. Credit: Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Western University

In a quest to find out what constitutes the microbiota ‘fingerprint’ of a healthy person, researchers from China and Canada have profiled and compared the gut microbiomes of healthy individuals across various age cohorts, from different provinces in China.

They found that the ‘ridiculously’ healthy cohort of elderly individuals had the same gut microbiota as that of 30-year olds from the same population.

Previous research has indicated that our gut microbiome has the potential to exert a beneficial effect on the host’s immune system and behavior. Another study from China showed that ethnic diversity, lifestyle and diet of individuals influenced gut microbiome.

The primary focus of this study was to understand the composition of a healthy gut microbiome in a specific population.The authors concluded that maintaining the microbial diversity of our gut could be a biomarker for healthy aging.

“The main conclusion is that if you are ridiculously healthy and 90 years old, your gut microbiota is not that different from a healthy 30 year old in the same population,” said Greg Gloor, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study, and professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute.

Another rather surprising result from the study showed that the microbiota of people in their early 20s was distinct from other age groups. This could be unique to the specific cohort in China, and requires further study to examine the underlying cause.

The study focused on individuals who self-reported to have no family history of disease, and no health issues. Stringent exclusion criteria were included to delineate the effects of lifestyle on the composition of gut microbiota. The microbial species were identified by sequencing variable regions on their 16S rRNA gene.

“The aim is to bring novel microbiome diagnostic systems to populations, then use food and probiotics to try and improve biomarkers of health,” said Gregor Reid, PhD, also a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute.

“It begs the question – if you can stay active and eat well, will you age better, or is healthy aging predicated by the bacteria in your gut?”

The results from their research could be used as a baseline for the selected population, to contrast against microbiomes from diseased individuals, or taken further to study the effect of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota.

“By studying healthy people, we hope to know what we are striving for when people get sick,” said Reid.

Source: Press Release, Western Univerity