Microbiome and Longevity

There is compelling new research coming out all the time about the microbiome and longevity. What links do studies show between gut health, inflammation, immune function and longevity? And what are the related implications for personalised nutrition and therapeutic interventions targeting the microbiome? It is no secret that we are living longer than ever and going through a prolonged ageing process. Over the next three decades, the global population aged over 60 is set to double. But living longer does not necessarily mean living longer in good health; as we age, we become more susceptible to diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimers and obesity due to physiological and cellular changes related to ageing. Therefore the question arises: as we live ever longer, what action can we take to improve longevity and promote healthy ageing? Here, we will discuss interventions that target the microbiome to positively impact ageing and longevity. 

What is the microbiome?

  The human microbiome is the collection of microorganisms and viruses that live in the human body. It is now known – through a growing body of research on the subject – that healthy microbiome composition is key to human health and the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in the ageing process.   The gut microbiome starts to colonise after birth, becomes established by the age of three, and then continues to change until adulthood. As we age, the colonies of microbiota can come into a state of imbalance, otherwise known as dysbiosis, which can cause inflammation and is a risk factor for various diseases. As a result, looking into the link between the microbiome and longevity is key to understanding more about what can be done to improve longevity through targeted nutritional and therapeutic interventions. 

What links do studies show between the microbiome and longevity?

As our understanding of the impact of the gut microbiome on ageing and longevity grows, so does scientific interest in the topic, evidenced by the recent surge in studies that explore the topics of gut health, inflammation and immune function in relation to longevity. Below are some relevant studies that underline the connection between the gut microbiome and longevity.  

The gut microbiota and healthy ageing: A mini-review

Published in Gerontology in 2018, this review paper discusses the role of the gut microbiota in health and disease during ageing. It concluded that age-related gut dysbiosis may contribute to unhealthy ageing and reduced longevity. This is due to gut dysbiosis triggering inflammation, which leads to various age-related diseases and unhealthy ageing. This underlines the likely impact the gut microbiome has on healthy ageing and longevity.   

The microbiome: An emerging key player in ageing and longevity

  According to this 2020 review of studies into the gut microbiome and ageing, there is a direct causal role of the gut microbiome on ageing. In other words, a healthy microbiome helps maintain homeostasis and improve immune tolerance whereas abnormal shifts in the gut microbiome are linked to age-related chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.  

Gut microbiota as the key controllers of “healthy” ageing of elderly people

  This 2021 study suggests that dysbiosis is a principal cause of ageing-associated morbidities and, therefore, premature death of people in old age. This happens because dysbiosis is a catalyst for a chain of pathological and inflammatory events – e.g. increased gut leakiness and impaired gastrointestinal tract function and integrity – which cause inflammation. This inflammation, when associated with ageing, is known as “inflammaging”, and can result in age-related diseases. It follows, then, that we can promote healthy ageing and longevity by focusing on interventions that target the microbiome and therefore reduce inflammaging. 

Interventions on Gut Microbiota for Healthy Aging

This 2023 study looked at the – largely harmful – changes in microbiota composition induced by ageing and concluded that developing strategies to boost microbiota health will help in the goal of healthy ageing. This is based on the premise that ageing is the most important risk factor for the majority of chronic human diseases. It follows, then, that therapies and intervention to reduce, halt or even reverse various age-related morbidities can improve the quality of life as we grow old. Such interventions include dietary interventions and physical exercise as well as supplementation with probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, psychobiotics and antioxidants.  In review, a growing body of research indicates that the microbiome profoundly influences health and disease as we age, with dysbiosis being consistently associated with inflammation, or “inflammaging”, and an increased susceptibility to age-related conditions. The question becomes: how can we reduce inflammation and increase the variety of gut microbiota through targeted nutritional and therapeutic interventions? At present, several promising interventions for promoting healthy ageing have emerged but each comes with various considerations to take into account. 

What personalised nutrition interventions target the microbiome?

 

Dietary interventions 

  An easily-accessible and highly-customisable approach to improving the microbiome is through dietary interventions, such as the Mediterranean diet or high-fibre diets. The Mediterranean diet – rich in vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats – has long been praised for its positive impact on longevity. According to Dan Buettner’s research into the world’s Blue Zones, it can lower your risk for heart disease while also increasing your life expectancy by up to six years. However, following a diet can be a challenge depending on an individual’s circumstances and lifestyle and the impact it has can vary widely based on the baseline composition of the microbiome and adherence to the diet.  

Probiotics 

  Another handy way to impact the microbiome is by consuming probiotics. Probiotics are the “friendly” bacteria inside your gut that convert fibre into compounds that help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. This can be particularly useful when it has been disrupted by an illness or treatment. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods and there are a wide variety of probiotic supplements available but the efficacy depends heavily on the strain and dose as well as the microbiome composition of the individual taking them.  Studies show that probiotics can help regulate age-related imbalances in the gut microbiota and induce specific health-promoting strains of bacteria.   

Prebiotics 

  Prebiotics are types of non-digestible fibre – such as onions, garlic, bananas and whole grains – that feed your friendly gut bacteria. They can also be found in a variety of supplements. The impact they have on the microbiome may vary widely from one person to the next, and gastrointestinal discomfort is a potential side effect of high doses, but studies such as this one suggest that prebiotics can restore healthy microbiota and reduce inflammation.   

Postbiotics 

  Postbiotics – the remaining bioactive compounds left after the healthy bacteria in your gut ferment fibre – may help boost your immune system. For example, postbiotics like butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid, can stimulate the production of regulatory T cells inside your intestine that help control your body’s immune response. However, postbiotic supplements are not yet widely available and there is currently a gap in knowledge about mechanisms and optimal dosing, as well as variability in efficacy and bioavailability.

What personalised therapeutic interventions target the microbiome?

 

Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT)

  Faecal microbiota transplantation is the administration of a solution of faecal matter from a donor into the intestinal tract of a recipient in order to directly alter the recipient’s gut microbial composition. This can have health benefits: it has successfully been used to treat Clostridioides difficile infection, which is common in older people. Furthermore, there is hope it could be used to treat other diseases associated with dysbiosis, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), obesity, metabolic syndrome and functional gastrointestinal disorders. However the intervention comes with its challenges as there are potential risks of pathogen transmission,  a lack of long-term safety data and ethical considerations to take into consideration.   

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

  An important consideration is where AI might fit in the puzzle as a complement to traditional interventions that promote gut health and address age-related diseases. AI and machine learning technologies may be used to analyse vast amounts of data to predict individual responses to different microbiome interventions. The picture of how such innovative approaches might be used will become clearer as research progresses and our understanding of the gut microbiome deepens. Of course, generally speaking, the more research is done into the link between microbiome and longevity, the more effective our interventions to target the microbiome will become. 

Improving your longevity with targeted therapies 

  At Paracelsus Longevity, we believe that our health and wellbeing are our most important assets and investing in optimising your health now for the long run is one of the smartest investments you can make. The gut biology tests that we do as part of our seven-day comprehensive health check-up allows us to create a truly personalised approach to using therapeutic and nutritional interventions that target the microbiome with a view to improving longevity and slowing down the ageing process.   
Sources:
 
Ageing and Health Fact sheet
by the World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health  
The Gut Microbiota and Healthy Aging: A Mini-Review
by Sangkyu Kim, S Michal Jazwinsk: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30025401/  
The microbiome: An emerging key player in aging and longevity
by Minhoo Kim a, Bérénice A. Benayoun: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468501120300146  
Gut microbiota as the key controllers of “healthy” aging of elderly people
by Emeline Ragonnaud & Arya Biragyn: https://immunityageing.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12979-020-00213-w  
Interventions on Gut Microbiota for Healthy Aging
by Sabrina Donati Zeppa, Deborah Agostini, Fabio Ferrini, Marco Gervasi, Elena Barbieri, Alessia Bartolacci, Giovanni Piccoli, Roberta Saltarelli, Piero Sestili, and Vilberto Stocchi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9818603/  
Secrets of the Mediterranean Diet by The Blue Zones:
https://www.bluezones.com/2011/09/secrets-of-the-mediterranean-diet/#:~:text=So%20what%20is%20the%20key,and%20moderate%20amounts%20of%20alcohol.  
​​Probiotics- its functions and influence on the ageing process: A comprehensive review
by Pintu Choudhary, Deepika Kathuria, Shweta Suri, Adity Bahndral, A. Kanthi Naveen: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212429223000408#:~:text=Studies%20have%20also%20shown%20that,induce%20precise%20health%2Dpromoting%20strains.  
Emerging Evidence on the Use of Probiotics and Prebiotics to Improve the Gut Microbiota of Older Adults with Frailty Syndrome: A Narrative Review
by, B. Sánchez y Sánchez de la Barquera, B. E. Martínez Carrillo, J. F. Aguirre Garrido, R. Martínez Méndez, A. D. Benítez Arciniega, R. Valdés Ramos, and Alexandra Estela Soto Piña: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9483424/  
Postbiotics-A Step Beyond Pre- and Probiotics
by Jakub Żółkiewicz, Aleksandra Marzec , Marek Ruszczyński, Wojciech Feleszko: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32717965  
Current Status and Future Therapeutic Options for Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
by Sergii Tkach, Andrii Dorofeyev, Iurii Kuzenko, Nadiya Boyko, Tetyana Falalyeyeva, Luigi Boccuto, Emidio Scarpellini, Nazarii Kobyliak, and Ludovico Abena: https://www.mdpi.com/1648-9144/58/1/84  
Fecal microbiota transplantation: in perspective
by Shaan Gupta, Emma Allen-Vercoe, and Elaine O. Petrof: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4749851/

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