Posted on Mar 31, 2021, 5 a.m.
According to recent research published in the journal Nature Metabolism, living a long and happy life may depend on the unique combination of bacteria/flora residing in our gut patterns in the microbiome may determine whether one is going to age well or have an early death.
A healthy gut typically will contain mostly beneficial bacteria and immune cells which will help to ward off infections, pathogens, and diseases. This is known to be a vital component of the body’s immune system, but the importance of this in the aging process has remained more unclear. Now, research from the Institute for Systems Biology indicates that the gut microbiome continues to evolve, but only among the healthy.
“Prior results in microbiome-aging research appear inconsistent, with some reports showing a decline in core gut genera in centenarian populations, while others show relative stability of the microbiome up until the onset of aging-related declines in health,” says co-author Dr. Sean Gibbons. “Our work, which is the first to incorporate a detailed analysis of health and survival, may resolve these inconsistencies. Specifically, we show two distinct aging trajectories. One, a decline in core microbes and an accompanying rise in uniqueness in healthier individuals, consistent with prior results in community-dwelling centenarians, and two, the maintenance of core microbes in less healthy individuals.”
For this study, the gut microbiome of 9,000 people between the ages of 18-101 years old was analyzed, as well as tracking the survival rates for a cohort of 900 seniors between the ages of 78-98. Findings show that the gut microbiome becomes increasingly unique as individuals get older, and core Bacteroides common to all humans start to decline in mid to late adulthood.
“Interestingly, this uniqueness pattern appears to start in mid-life — 40 to 50 years old — and is associated with a clear blood metabolomic signature, suggesting that these microbiome changes may not simply be diagnostic of healthy aging, but that they may also contribute directly to health as we age,” says study co-author Dr. Tomasz Wilmanski. “For example, indoles are known to reduce inflammation in the gut, and chronic inflammation is thought to be a major driver in the progression of aging-related morbidities.”
Even with the increasing uniqueness healthy microbiome continue to share common traits, but those with unique gut patterns have different metabolites in their blood plasma including tryptophan-derived indole which has been shown to extend lifespan in animal studies. Phenylacetylglutamine metabolites were also found which previously had been found in high quantities in the blood of centenarians, but this unique trait only took place among healthy individuals according to the researchers.
“This uniqueness signature can predict patient survival in the latest decades of life,” says Dr. Tomasz Wilmanski. “Healthy individuals around 80 years of age showed continued microbial drift toward a unique compositional state, but this drift was absent in less healthy individuals.”
“This is exciting work that we think will have major clinical implications for monitoring and modifying gut microbiome health throughout a person’s life,” co-author Dr. Nathan Price adds.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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