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Longevity Briefs: The centenarian gut microbiome

Posted on 30 May 2023

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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.

The gut microbiome

Why is this research important: The gut microbiome refers to the vast community of microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract. This complex ecosystem plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including digestion, immunity, and metabolism. Evidence is continually emerging that indicates that as we age, the composition and diversity of our gut microbiome undergoes significant changes, which can affect our health and well-being. By studying and better understanding these changes we may unlock secrets to maintaining diverse and healthy gut microbiota populations, improving our overall vitality as we grow older, and possibly even increasing our life span!

What did the researchers do: This exciting study aimed to identify changes in the proportions of different gut microorganisms associated with ageing and longevity, by comparing gut flora genetic sequencing data between centenarians (people who live past age 100), elderly (mean age 71 years), and young groups (mean age 37 years), within 32 long-living families in Baipu Village, China.

Sequencing of gut flora DNA

Key takeaways from this research

  • Centenarians may possess gut microbiomes with increased diversity and a higher proportion of anti-inflammatory bacteria compared to younger age groups
  • Further evidence that targeted gut microbiome therapies offer great potential for combatting age-related diseases and extending life span

While there is a growing body of evidence that the gut microbiome’s composition and diversity play vital roles in promoting good health and longevity in humans, the relationship is wonderfully complex and far from fully understood. For instance, some studies have suggested that changes in the gut microbiota may directly contribute to age-related diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, while others have found no significant association.

Clearly further research on both humans and animals is needed to better understand the role of this complex ecosystem of gut microorganisms in ageing, and to help us develop interventions that maintain its diversity as we grow older. Further studies like this one, on centenarians (and even supercentenarians), provide unique exciting avenues for potential research. In the meantime, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics are some simple steps that can help you to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

So, go ahead and eat those leafy greens, whole grains, and fermented foods, and keep your gut happy and healthy for a long and fulfilling life!

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    Jingjing Wang, Jinlong Qie, Danrong Zhu, Xuemei Zhang, Qingqing Zhang, Yuyu Xu, Yipeng Wang, Kai Mi, Yang Pei, Yang Liu, Guozhong Ji & Xingyin Liu (2022) The landscape in the gut microbiome of long-lived families reveals new insights on longevity and aging – relevant neural and immune function, Gut Microbes, 14:1, DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2022.2107288

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