As people are living longer, researchers are focusing on how people can live healthier lives—and research on gut bacteria may hold an important key to answers.
As human life expectancy continues to rise, a natural result is that increasing numbers of people around the world are aged 60 or more. Just makes sense, right?
In fact, the United Nations shares that the number of older adults is expected to more than double from 2017 to 2050, and more than triple by 2100. Estimates are as follows:
2017: 962 million older adults
2050: 2.1 billion older adults
2100: 3.1 billion older adults
Not surprisingly, as lifespans are increasing and the numbers of older adults continue to grow, the numbers of people with chronic diseases are also growing. As just one example, it’s expected that nearly 14 million people will have Alzheimer’s disease and/or other kinds of dementia by 2060 in the United States alone.
So, researchers are paying more and more attention to how older adults can continue to live healthy lives. This includes insights provided at the London Microbiome Meeting, which was covered by MedicalNewsToday.com.
A “worm-bug” named C. elegans was used in this research, and it has a lifespan of only two to three weeks. As it ages, it develops illnesses, just like human beings do, which is why this worm-bug was used in aging-related research. To treat C. elegans, researchers focused on suppressing its aging and, through that process, they were able to study aging processes, including “resistance to stress, growth, fecundity [ability to reproduce], and lifespan.” This microorganism has even been used to study Alzheimer’s, among other diseases.
More specifically, this worm-bug was fed nearly 4,000 versions of E. coli bacteria. When 29 of them were then deleted, the worms’ lifespan went up. Plus, twelve of the bacteria types actually protected the worms against tumor growth and the accumulation of a substance found in people with Alzheimer’s.
Interestingly enough, when the worm-bugs were given a drug that’s commonly used to treat diabetes today, called metformin, it delayed aging—which suggests that metformin might help to target numerous age-related chronic diseases in people, including cancers and Alzheimer’s. And, here’s where it really gets intriguing, metformin is working because it delays aging through bacteria! In fact, when bacteria is missing, metformin does not help in fighting against aging.
Take a look at this...it’s that important and it presents a radically different way of looking at bacteria and of fighting disease:
“Therefore, the research found, anti-aging effects can also be achieved without wiping out bacterial growth, but by doing quite the opposite: colonizing the gut with specific strains of bacteria.”
What’s Next With Healthy Aging and Gut Bacteria
Researchers plan to colonize C. elegans with bacterial strains found in humans in the future, to see what they can learn about healthy human aging. They’ve already received some funding to address this topic, which is to “use C. elegans to ask specific questions about the role of the microbiome in human health.”
Although plenty of studies show links between the microbiome and disease, what’s on the frontier is determining cause and effect. Which microorganisms, for example, actually contribute to health (or disease) and how exactly does that happen?
We’ll end this post on another quote, one bursting with possibilities: “By better understanding the links between nutrition, microbiome, and health, we can understand how the elderly can maintain their microbiome, and also help them directly by using pre- and probiotic strategies. This would help us age in [a] better way, maintaining health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.”