A recent study, led by Assistant Professor Jiangchao Zhao from the Department of Animal Science, Division of Agriculture, at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas (USA), has identified new gut microbial signatures of healthy aging in Chinese long-lived individuals.
The researchers compared the gut microbiota of healthy Chinese centenarians, and nonagenarians (90-99 years old) (n = 67), with younger individuals (including 54 elderly and 47 young adults) and with the results from the previous study of gut microbiota in Italian centenarians (n = 15) and semi-supercentenarians (n = 24) by Biagi et al.
Datasets from the Chinese and Italian studies were combined and re-analyzed. Significant differences in overall community membership and structures between the Italian and Chinese long-lived groups were observed. Despite these differences, common features that discriminated long-lived from younger individuals were identified in both groups.
A total of 50 features (including bacterial operational taxonomic units –OTUs– and alpha-diversity measures) from the combined Chinese and Italian dataset differentiated long-lived individuals from others. Specifically, 11 features were shared by the older individuals in the Chinese and Italian studies, including community richness, members of Blautia, Clostridium XIVa, Faecalibacterium, Escherichia_Shigella, and unclassified Lachnospiraceae, Ruminococcaceae, and Erysipelotrichaceae. Alpha diversity – an estimator of within-community diversity – was among the top features that distinguished long-lived people from younger ones. Besides this, both community richness and community diversity were greater in the long-lived group than in the younger group.
OTUs enriched in the long-lived groups in both Chinese and Italian cohorts were potentially beneficial bacteria, including members of the Clostridium cluster IVa -comprising many bacterial genera involved in the production of short-chain fatty acids-and Ruminococcaceae, Akkermansia, and Christensenellacea.
In conclusion, these data support the idea that long-lived individuals can be used to study the relationship between gut microbiota and healthy aging. The higher gut microbial diversity and enrichment of several potentially beneficial bacteria in two different cohorts of long-lived people indicate a plausible link between healthy aging and features of the human gut microbiota. Further research is needed in order to elucidate its role as a cause or effect of healthy aging and whether targeting gut microbes is effective in promoting longevity.
Andreu Prados Andreu Prados holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy & Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Science writer specialised in gut microbiota and probiotics, working also as lecturer and consultant in nutrition and healthcare. Follow Andreu on Twitter @andreuprados