Here’s another reason to make gut health a priority: it may ensure a long, healthy life. A Japanese study of centenarians concludes that people in their 100s have unique gut bacteria that enables them to live so long.
Their powerful gut makeup fuels bile acids that protect against disease, according to scientists. And the discovery could lead to better probiotics and culture-rich foods like yogurt that increase longevity.
“In people over the age of 100, an enrichment in a distinct set of gut microbes generate unique bile acids,” says lead author Kenya Honda, a microbiologist at Keio University in Japan, in a statement per South West News Service. “They might inhibit the growth of pathogens.”
The complex fluids are vital in ridding the body of fat and waste. They also control cholesterol.
“The community of microbes in our gut changes as we age,” says Honda.
In healthy individuals, the trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines become increasingly distinctive.
“Centenarians are less susceptible to age-related chronic diseases and infection than are elderly individuals below the age of 100,” he tells SWNS. “It is thought the composition of their gut microbiota may be associated with extreme longevity, but the mechanisms have been unclear.”
In particular, they have specific strains of an organism known as Odoribacter. It makes bile acids that act as antimicrobials against a range of illnesses. Experiments in mice show they even destroyed hospital superbugs C. diff and Enterococcus faecium. They can can cause severe diarrhea, especially in vulnerable people being treated with antibiotics.
“These findings suggest specific bile acid metabolism may be involved in reducing the risk of infection – potentially contributing to the maintenance of intestinal health,” says Honda.
Closer look at the gut biome of centenarians
His team analyzed the gut bacteria of more than 300 adults in Japan — 160 people over 100, 112 ages 85 to 89, and 47 under 55s. They also screened 68 species of bacteria from a feces sample of one of the centenarians. “Compared with elderly and young individuals,” says Honda, “centenarians are enriched in gut microbes capable of generating unique secondary bile acids through novel biosynthetic pathways.”
The study suggests they hold the key to an “elixir of youth.”
“It may be possible to exploit the bile-acid-metabolizing capabilities of the identified bacterial strains to manipulate the pool for health benefits,” adds Honda.
The discovery sheds fresh light on why centenarians are less prone to age related illnesses, chronic inflammation and infectious diseases. It adds to growing evidence the community of microorganisms in your belly can help predict if you long and healthy life.
Gut makeup is determined partly by your mother’s microbiota – the environment that you’re exposed to at birth – and partly from your diet and lifestyle. They line your entire digestive system. Most live in your intestines and colon. They are believed to affect, metabolism and the immune system.
“It has been postulated there are centenarian-specific members of the gut microbiota which, rather than representing a mere consequence of aging, might actively contribute to resistance against pathogenic infection and other environmental stressors,” concludes Honda. “We aimed to identify such beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiota of centenarians.”
The study is published in the journal Nature.