Research shows a potential link between a healthy gut and healthy aging, in one of the largest microbiota studies ever conducted in humans.
Research was carried out by scientists at the Lawson Health Research Institute of Western University Canada, in collaboration with those at the Tianyi Health Science Institute in China. Gut microbiota of more than 1000 very healthy individuals aged between 3 and 100 years was analysed. The study, published this month in mSphere, found that “extremely healthy” seniors had the have the same bacterial composition in their guts as healthy 30-year-olds.
Participants were selected based on criteria of “extreme health.” Participants reported no disease in either themselves or their families. They didn’t smoke or consume alcohol. They had no reported moodiness and they had not taken antibiotics or prescribed medication within 3 months prior to commencement of the study. Additionally, there was no family history of cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological or gastrointestinal diseases.
Co-author Gregor Reid, a professor at Western University, says the purpose of this study was to “bring novel microbiome diagnostic systems to populations, then use food and probiotics to try and improve bio-markers of health. It begs the question – if you can stay active and eat well, will you age better, or is healthy ageing predicated by the bacteria in your gut?”
Researchers have suggested that improving the microbial diversity of elders to that of 30 year olds may improve health and promote longevity.
Greg Gloor, the principal investigator on the study says that this research “demonstrates that maintaining diversity of your gut as you age is a biomarker of healthy ageing, just like low-cholesterol is a biomarker of a healthy circulatory system,”
There have been many studies to date on the gut microbiome. Most however have been on animals, human research is still in the early stages and studies thus far are cross-sectional. Studies such as this show a snapshot in time versus studies that follow participants over a long period. These studies can draw correlations however don’t indicate causation.
This new study is very exciting, however it is still preliminary and more research is required. What it does tell us is that gut microbial diversity is a common trait among healthy people of all ages. And therefore maintaining this diversity as we age could be a potential bio-marker for good health.
To find out what you can do to improve your gut health check out my blog post on this subject.