Chinese and Canadian researchers have found evidence to suggest that a healthy gut could be linked to healthy ageing. Carried out by researchers from Ontario’s Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute as well as from Tianyi Health Science Institute in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China, the research is one of the largest microbiota studies conducted in humans, looking at a cohort of more than 1,000 Chinese participants. Previous research too has shown that gut bacteria can slow down ageing.
The researchers studied the gut bacteria in individuals, who were aged 3 to over 100 years old and self-reported as being “extremely healthy” with no known health problems and no family history of disease. The team observed a direct correlation between health and the microbes in the intestine, finding that the overall microbiota composition of the healthy elderly group was similar to that of people decades younger, with little difference between the gut microbiota of those age 30 to those age over 100.
“This 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,” commented Greg Gloor, the principal investigator on the study and also a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute.
The study didn’t identify the cause or effect between gut microbiota and healthy ageing, with Gregor Reid, professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute saying, “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?”
However, Gloor added that, “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.” The researchers now suggest that resetting microbiota in the elderly to that of a 30-year-old might help promote health.
“The aim is to bring novel microbiome diagnostic systems to populations, then use food and probiotics to try and improve biomarkers of health,” said Reid, adding, “By studying healthy people, we hope to know what we are striving for when people get sick.” The findings can be found published online in the journal mSphere.