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Key Takeaways

  • Variations in the gut microflora have been recently linked to age-related changes
  • Probiotics are showing promising results in preventing the progression of chronic disease
  • A combination of prebiotics (compounds that promote the growth of healthy microflora) and probiotics (preparations of healthy intestinal microorganisms) was able to increase the lifespan of male Drosophila flies
  • This longevity-promoting comes along with a decrease in oxidative stress and inflammatory markers, essential components of age-related chronic diseases

Actions to Consider

  • Although this study has been performed on Drosophila flies, humans can benefit from the action of healthy bacteria and prebiotics too. Multi-strain probiotics usually work better than single-strain formulations
  • Taking prebiotics along with probiotics may also be beneficial. Natural prebiotics are high in short-chain fatty acids and fiber. Some examples include chicory root, artichoke, garlic leeks, asparagus, barley, and oats. Alternatively, you can try a prebiotic supplement

Gut microflora as an emerging longevity predictor

Recent evidence suggests that the gut flora may have a far greater impact on human health, mood, and longevity than previously thought.

Specifically, the gut microbiome may reduce low-grade inflammation and prevent the progression of chronic disease. On the other hand, having the wrong bacteria or feeding them with the wrong nutrients may promote inflammation and bring forth age-related processes.

In today’s study, we’ll be looking into some of the possible mechanisms behind these changes.

What is this study about?

Published in 2018 in the Scientific Reports journal, this study looks into the possible mechanisms through which a preparation of prebiotics and probiotics was able to increase the lifespan of male Drosophila flies.

How your gut microflora affects your brain

The gut-brain axis (GBA) is a communication system between the microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract and the brain. Although the exact details are still unclear, the gut microflora seems to send a wide range of signals to the brain (chemical, immunological, and neuronal), affecting its function. To some extent, this may play a role in age-related processes and longevity.

For example, Lactobacillus brevis apparently improves memory in aging mice, and some other bacteria may fight neurodegeneration.

The impact could be more than we expect

In this study, scientists divided male Drosophila flies into 6 groups (plus control) and gave them one of the following:

  • Only the probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum NCIMB 5221 (Lf5221)
  • Only the probiotic Bifidobacteria longum spp. infantis NCIMB 702255 (Bi702255)
  • Only the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum NCIMB 8826 (Lp8826)
  • Only Triphala (TFLA), a novel polyphenol-rich prebiotic blend of Ayurvedic plants (Emblica officinalis, Terminalia bellirica, and Terminalia chebula)
  • A probiotic formulation consisting of the three bacterial cultures mentioned above
  • A synbiotic formulation (a complex of the three probiotics and the prebiotic blend)

The maximal lifespan of a Drosophila fly on a normal diet is about 40 days.

  • Flies that received Lf5221 experienced a 16-day increase in longevity (40%)
  • The TFLA group showed a 14-day increase (35%)
  • The probiotic formulation group had a 24-day boost in longevity (60%)
  • Finally, the symbiotic (prebiotic + probiotic) group experienced a 26-day increase (65%)

Notably, there was also a significant reduction in inflammatory markers in all groups, as well as an improvement in glucose and fat metabolism.

So, what’s the secret to longevity?

Although the exact mechanism is still unclear, here is the hypothetical overview of the involved dynamics.

  • The gut microflora takes part in the digestion of nutrients, especially carbohydrate and fat
  • In the process of digesting these nutrients, different metabolites are formed depending on the nutrients themselves and the bacteria involved in the process
  • Some of these metabolites may induce low-grade chronic inflammation, especially locally
  • Low-grade chronic inflammation is accompanied by an increase in oxidative stress, which may worsen the quality of the local microflora and reinforce this vicious cycle
  • On all stages, the brain receives signals from immune, hormonal, and metabolic messengers and regulated particular enzymes, many of which play a role in age-related processes

To summarize, a complex of the right bacteria (probiotics) and the right nutrients (prebiotics) seems to be essential both for general health and longevity.

Conclusion

It seems that the gut microflora plays a vital role in general health and aging, although we don’t know all the peculiar interactions yet.

It’s too early to say that a certain bacterial strain or prebiotic formulation is a longevity enhancer in humans, so it’s advisable to test a few supplements or different forms of natural prebiotics to see what works for you. 

Link to the study:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-25382-z

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