You’ve heard by now about the “microbiota” and the “microbiome.” There’s a difference: microbiota refers to the colony of bacteria residing in the human organism in total – while the microbiome refers to the genes contained within the bacteria, or within the microbiota.
One of the largest microbiota studies just completed in humans occurred at the Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute and Tianyi Health Science Institute in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China. Researchers of this study have shown a potential link between healthy aging and a healthy gut. The scientists investigated the gut bacteria in more than 1,000 Chinese individuals ranging in age from 3 to older than 100, who were self-selected as considerably healthy with no known ill health conditions and no family history of disease. The results showed a direct relationship between health and the microbes that reside in the intestine. In fact, the overall microbiota composition of the healthy elderly in the study was on part of that in people decades younger; and the microbiota between the healthy elderly did not differ much than that in those much younger.
Gregor Reid, professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute, commented that the team’s goal “is to bring novel microbiome diagnostic systems to populations, then use food and probiotics to try and improve biomarkers of health. The study conclusions, he noted, raises a significant question: “If you can stay active and eat well, will you age better, or is healthy ageing predicated by the bacteria in your gut?”
“The main conclusion is that if you are ridiculously healthy and 90 years old, your gut microbiota is not that different from a healthy 30 year old in the same population,” said Greg Gloor, principal investigator on the study and also a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute. “This demonstrates that maintaining diversity of your gut as you age is a biomarker of healthy aging, just like low-cholesterol is a biomarker of a healthy circulatory system.”
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- Gaorui Bian, Gregory B. Gloor, Aihua Gong, Changsheng Jia, Wei Zhang, Jun Hu, Hong Zhang, Yumei Zhang, Zhenqing Zhou, Jiangao Zhang, Jeremy P. Burton, Gregor Reid, Yongliang Xiao, Qiang Zeng, Kaiping Yang, Jiangang Li. The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Aged Chinese Is Similar to That of the Healthy Young. mSphere, 2017; 2 (5): e00327-17 DOI: 1128/mSphere.00327-17