It is now widely recognized that gut microbiota plays a key role in health and that changes in its composition could be at the origin of several chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes and inflammatory diseases. The composition of the intes healthy adults, however, is more stable compared to the one in children and older people. Moreover, studies have shown that elderly people display a greater inter-tinal bacterial community in individual variation than younger adults.

Researchers from University College Cork in Ireland have recently analyzed the bacteria living in the intestines of more than 170 people over 78 years of age. They found that the gut microbiota varied according to the environment where they were living (at day care, in hospital, at home) and also according to what they ate. In general, people living in community were healthier and had a more diverse gut microbiota than people living in long-term care, who were also weaker. Authors of the study, recently published in Nature Magazine, believe that these changes in gut microbiota composition and the related loss of health status are driven by diet.

“The diet of older people changes quickly when they move from community to long-term care, but the microbiota changes more slowly — up to a year for full change from community type to long-term residential type. One would not expect that the rate of heath decline in this time could be responsible for the change in microbiota composition. It’s more plausible to be driven by diet,” explained the authors of the study.

This study has shown that senior’s health is strongly influenced by diet which influences also gut microbiota composition. This work suggests that changes and adjustments in the diet could be a way to promote a healthier ageing, which is key for everyone, especially for those living in long-term residential care.