Can Gut Bacteria Regulate the Aging Process?

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gut bacteria

For the first time, one new research shows that an imbalance in the good and bad bacteria in the gut of old mice can cause some inflammatory responses in young mice, which are age-related responses. These reactions are related to some conditions like stroke, dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease. Therapies which are targeting the bacterial composition of the gut in older people, through some changes to diet and pre- and probiotic supplements, may lead to a healthier aging population.

The “Inflammaging”

As this new study reveals, when transplanted into young mice, gut bacteria from old mice induce age-related chronic inflammation. This low-grade chronic inflammation, which is called “inflammaging,” it linked to life-limiting conditions, like stroke, dementia, and cardiovascular disease as well. The research which has been published in open-access journal Frontiers in Immunology give us hope of a potentially simple strategy to contribute to healthy aging, as the composition of the bacteria in the gut is, at least in some parts, controlled by diet.

Dr. Floris Fransen, who performed the research at the University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands, explains:

“Since inflammaging is considered to contribute to different diseases associated with aging, and now we have found that the gut microbiota plays a role in this process, strategies which are alerting the gut microbiota composition on elderly, could reduce inflammaging and in that way promote healthy aging. Strategies which are known to help in alerting gut microbiota composition include the following: changes in diet, probiotics, and prebiotics.”

Different Composition of Gut Bacteria

According to previous research, elderly tend to have a different composition of the gut bacteria, than younger people. The immune responses also tend to be compromised in older people, which result in inflammaging. Knowing these facts, Dr. Fransen and his team set out to investigate a potential link.

The scientists working on this, have transferred gut microbiota from old and young conventional mice to young germ-free mice, and then they have analyzed the immune responses in their spleen, lymph nodes and tissues in the small intestine. All the results that followed showed an immune response to bacteria which was transferred from the old one, not from the young mice.

Gut Bacteria Imbalance

The results also suggest that the possible cause of inflammaging in the elderly could be an imbalance of the bacterial composition in the gut. Imbalances, or also known as “dysbiosis” of gut bacteria results in “bad” bacteria being more dominant than “good” bacteria. An overgrowth of harmful bacteria can make the lining of the gut more permeable, in that way allowing toxins to enter the bloodstream, where they can travel around the body causing various adverse effects. Dysbiosis can also have some serious health implications. Several disorders which are already linked to the condition are inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, anxiety, and autism.

Dr. Fransen explains:

“Our gut is inhabited by a large number of bacteria. Furthermore, there are a lot of different kinds of bacterial species, and those that are present can vary from person to person.”

For a healthy body and healthy aging, maintaining a healthy gut microbiota is important, but it is still not fully understood why the gut microbiota is different in older people. For example, there are a lot of people who are aware of the effect that antibiotics have on the digestive system. However, as Dr. Fransen explains, it may not be down to only one thing, but it is likely a combination of factors, like reduced physical activity, changes in the diet, as well as part of a natural process.

Most, if not all, age-related diseases can be linked back to inflammaging. Despite the fact that this study has been conducted on mice, it is apparent that the key to a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a healthy gut microbiota. However, researchers have to do more research to confirm that the human body mirrors the mice in the study.

Dr. Fransen concludes:

“There is a correlation between altered gut microbiota composition and inflammaging in both human and mice, but the link between them remains to be proven in humans.”

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