A study recently published in the journal Cell is teeming with incredible insights in to how/why our microbiome evolves with us as we age. There are quite a few key takeaways from this study, which is open access and free to read here.
- While focus has been on the gut microbiome, other microbial communities throughout our body may play big(ger) roles in our health, but have yet to be studied. This includes areas that were formerly believed to be sterile including the bladder, gallbladder, and fat. Yes, fat.
- We have yet to determine the direction of causality…Does a microbiome promote health or does health promote a specific, healthy microbiome.
- How our microbiome evolves with us may provide clues to help predict and assess our risk of the chronic diseases of aging including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
- This jibes with the recent finding that there appears to be a healthy microbiome associated with successful aging.
- Recent evidence points to the fetal environment not being sterile. The presence of microbes in the amniotic fluid/placental environment indicate potential early seeding of the fetal microbiome by the mother.
- Breast milk may be priming the infant microbiome for the digestion of plant polysaccharides.
- The microbiome of babies is typically enriched with bacteria that can make folate from other nutrients while the adult microbiome is enriched with bacteria that help us access and metabolize plant-derived folate.
- Potentially a big deal for those concerned with methylation
- Antibiotics can be devastating to an infant’s microbiome but an adult’s microbiome is more resistant.
- The infant gut microbiome helps promote the development of the the enteric nervous system, which more or less runs the digestive process.
- The first 2-3 years of life are crucial to proper development of the ENS and central nervous system(CNS)
- This period may also be critical in the development of neurodegenerative diseases later in life.
- While there is considerable variation in the composition of the adult microbiome, most of the functions of the microbiome remain fairly constant across all adults.
- A product of the pre-adult environment
- The elderly living in residential care facilities have a distinct, more inflammatory microbiome compared to young and elderly living freely and independently
- This can almost entirely be attributed to reduced fiber intake, sedentaray behavior, and common environmental exposures
- May help explain increased frailty in those in residential care
- Presence of beneficial Akkermansia declines with age. Apparently, these fellas/chicks are heavily involved in regulating autophagy and promoting remodeling of the intestinal wall. They also appear to help regulate Firmicutes/Bacteriodetes, which skews towards Bacteroidetes in those over 65.
- Creatine/creatinine are broken down more with age, potentially indicating the use of creatine to reduce the risk of frailty.
- In worms, the diabetes drug metformin increases longevity by altering microbial folate metabolism, deceasing methionine content in the gut
- In fruit flies, impaired signaling between the microbiome and FOXO led to leaky gut and reduced longevity. Re-establishing proper signaling promoted longevity.
This study is a great review of the currently available data and provides a pretty level headed review of the literature. While they discuss probiotics and things of that nature, those approaches are given a back seat to what appear to be the factors with the most evidence for promoting healthy aging, and potentially a health microbiome. Remember, the direction of the relationship has yet to be determined.
This totality of evidence is summed up in a tidy infographic…
Several aging-related environmental changes including lack of physical activity, changes in nutrition, medications, and residential status are all associated with changes in the microbiome that can impact successful aging. The take-home from this study:
- Get up and move, avoid being seated for long periods of time
- Creatine monohydrate may be useful for reducing frailty (3-5g daily) Note: I’ve talked about this before here.
- The microbiome in healthy agers tends to be enriched with bacteria brought to you by fasting, fiber intake, and calorie restriction. Do these things!
- Eating less, and probably fewer times, reduces the translocation of inflammatory bacteria in to your bloodstream and improves blood sugar control
- If you’re looking to age more rapidly, go in to residential care. Or, put another way, the design and policies or our residential care facilities need major overhauls if you care about the last 10 years of you or your loved ones’ life. I’ve visited a few of these places, they are a waiting room for death.
Welp, that just about does it. Please like and share on social media!!!