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Longevity Briefs: How The Uniqueness Of Your Gut May Predict Healthy Ageing

Posted on 10 March 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: We know that the microorganisms in our gut can have profound effects on our health and wellbeing, but what about ageing? Are certain types of bacteria associated with longevity? Although some studies have tried to answer this question, results have been inconsistent, and the role of the gut microbiome in ageing remains unclear.

Gut Microbiome - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Factors affecting gut microbiome health.
Science Direct

What did the researchers do: Researchers analysed gut microbiome data from over 9,000 people across three independent cohorts. Their ages ranged from 18 to 101 years old. Particular attention was payed to longitudinal data from a cohort of over 900 78-98 year olds, whose health and survival was tracked over time.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Microbiomes tended to become increasingly unique as individuals aged – that is to say, microbiomes of older individuals shared less in common with each other than those of younger individuals. This divergence generally began at around 40-50 years of age, and corresponded to a loss of bacterial species that tend to be shared across humans.

The researchers found that this uniqueness could be used to predict survival in later life. In healthy individuals, the microbiome continued to become more unique at the age of 80, while less healthy individuals tended to conserve their shared bacterial populations. Furthermore, this level of ‘gut uniqueness’ correlated with blood levels of various bacterial products associated with longevity, such as tryptophan-derived indole (which extends lifespan in mice) and phenylacetylglutamine (which is elevated in the blood of centenarians). This suggests that gut uniqueness is not just predictive of increased longevity, but may also contribute to health as we age.

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