Microbiology: Getting to the gut of an elderly diet
Microbiota variation in the intestine correlates with health as well as with diet in elderly individuals, reports a paper in Nature this week. The work suggests that dietary adjustments could promote healthier ageing by modulating the gut microbiota. It has been shown previously that the individual intestinal microbiota composition of older people is more varied than that of younger adults. Alterations in microbiota composition have also been associated with frailty, although small samples from single locations have been studied and whether these links are present in large cohorts is unclear.
Paul O’Toole and colleagues studied the faecal microbiota composition of 178 non-antibiotictreated elderly individuals with an average age of 78. They found that the microbiota formed distinct groups that correlate with the subjects’ residential situation ― in the community or in long-term residential care, for example.
The intestinal compositions also correlate with markers for increased frailty and poorer health, after adjusting for gender, age and location. The authors found that the individual microbiota of people in long-stay care was significantly less diverse than that of community dwellers. Loss of community-associated microbiota also correlates with increased frailty. In addition, analysis of dietary intake information indicates that the composition of the microbiota was associated with changes in the composition and diversity of the diet.
The authors suggest that on a community basis, microbiota profiling, potentially coupled with metabolomics, offers the potential for biomarker-based identification of individuals at risk of, or undergoing, less healthy ageing.