Changing your diet to maintain healthy gut bacteria could help to protect you from nearly all age-related diseases, new research suggests.
Imbalanced gut bacteria may to blame for many age-related diseases, according to the new study from University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands.
The researchers found that the poorly balanced gut bacteria in older mice could induce ‘inflammaging’ in younger mice when it was transplanted to them.
Inflammaging is a chronic inflammation condition associated with aging, which is linked to most serious age-related health conditions, like stroke, dementia and cardiovascular disease.
Scientists know that elderly people tend to have different gut bacteria profiles from younger people. This new research suggests that this change in balance is linked to inflammaging, which is in turn related to most late-onset diseases and disorders.
In recent years, we’ve found out that the gut is at the heart of just about everything, with many calling our second brain.
Inflammaging is a catch-all term for the tendency of elderly people to have generalized inflammation. It is thought to be related to evolved changes that the immune system undergoes as a person gets older.
It isn’t clear whether aging causes inflammation or inflammation causes aging, but the two go hand-in-hand, and susceptibility to many diseases goes along with both of them.
Since they knew that the bacterial microbiome also undergoes changes with age, the researchers, led by Dr Floris Fransen, wanted to test the relationship between the three factors.
They took samples from older mice – whose gut bacteria composition, like humans’, changes with age – and introduced them to the bodies of younger mice. After the procedure, the younger mice developed chronic inflammation, like the inflammaging that would normally have struck them later in life.
The scientists also transplanted gut bacteria from one group of younger mice to another group of mice of around the same ages to see if the immune response was just to the introduction of foreign bacteria.
But only the mice with transplanted gut bacteria from older ones developed inflammaging.
The differences in the responses suggested to the researchers that aging leads to an imbalance in gut bacteria, such that there are more ‘bad’ bacteria than good in the microbiome.
The proliferation of the bad bacteria leaves the gut lining more permeable to toxins that can contaminate the bloodstream and lead to disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, autism and even cancer.
The study suggests a causal relationship between aged gut bacteria and inflammaging in mice, and, though the same has not been proven in humans, the researchers report that a correlation has already been observed.
Still, the findings are enough to determine that ‘strategies that alter the gut microbiota composition in the elderly,’ such as developing a good diet and taking probiotics and prebiotics, ‘reduce inflammaging and promote healthy aging,’ says Dr Fransen.