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Nourish your gut bacteria for health-span extension

The gut microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms that reside in the gastrointestinal tract, has a significant influence on human health and longevity. There are several ways in which the gut microbiome can affect your health:


1. Digestion: The gut microbiome plays a key role in breaking down complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other nutrients that are difficult for the body to digest on its own. This process produces short-chain fatty acids, which are important for colon health and provide energy for the body. Being able to provide the body with the necessary energy supply and nutrients, and maintaining a healthy colon can contribute significantly to healthy aging. Aging-related changes in the microbiome can lead to decreased absorption of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. This can contribute to age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and cognitive decline.



2. Immune function: The gut microbiome helps to regulate the immune system by interacting with immune cells in the gut. It also helps to prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing the gut, which can lead to infections and inflammation. Maintaining a healthy immune system as we age to fight infections and suppress inflammation is key for a long healthy life. As we age, chronic inflammation can increase, which can contribute to age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The gut microbiome has been shown to affect inflammation levels in the body, and an imbalance in the microbiome (known as dysbiosis) can lead to increased inflammation. As we age, the immune system can become less effective, leading to an increased risk of infections and other diseases. Studies have shown that changes in the gut microbiome can contribute to immune dysfunction.



3. Metabolism: The gut microbiome can influence metabolism by affecting how the body absorbs and stores nutrients. Some studies have shown that changes in the gut microbiome can lead to metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Efficient absorption of nutrients becomes important in older age when many of us tend to consume less food due to various issues with our gastrointestinal system.


4. Mental health: There is growing evidence to suggest that the gut microbiome can influence mental health. The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication pathway between the gut and the brain, and there is evidence to suggest that alterations in the gut microbiome can affect mood, behavior, and cognitive function. As we tend to live longer our mental health deterioration becomes an increasingly important factor to consider for healthy aging. Aging-related changes in the microbiome have been linked to conditions such as depression and cognitive decline.



5. Disease risk: Changes in the gut microbiome have been linked to a number of diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. The cardiovascular is particularly important for healthy aging, as well as preventing cancers.


Overall, maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is important for overall health and wellbeing. The gut microbiome can significantly influence aging through a variety of mechanisms, and maintaining a healthy microbiome is important in promoting healthy aging. This can be achieved through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding the overuse of antibiotics.


A recent essay published in PLoS Biology (by Rachel Rock and Peter Turnbaugh from the University of California, San Francisco and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub-San Francisco) summarizes and discusses recent progress towards understanding the microbiome's role in aging and age-associated diseases. The authors acknowledge that despite a significant progress in understanding the the biological mechanisms involved in aging, the role of the microbiome remains understudied. The authors discuss the compelling evidence supporting a role for the microbiome in aging and age-associated diseases.

Reference: Rock RR, Turnbaugh PJ. Forging the microbiome to help us live long and prosper. PLoS Biol. 2023 Apr 5;21(4):e3002087. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002087. PMID: 37018375; PMCID: PMC10109465.


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