In an exciting new study, scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have shown that changing the relationship between gut bacteria and epithelial cells that line the intestine promotes health and increases lifespan in fruit flies, known as Drosophila.
These results support the newly emerging idea that having the right balance of gut bacteria may be the key to healthy aging and enjoying a long and healthy life.
In recent times, research in humans has linked the composition of gut bacteria with diet and health in the elderly - while unhealthy changes in gut bacteria are emerging as a crucial factor in the development of cancer, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
This study looked at age-related changes in the fruit fly gut - including greater oxidative stress, inflammation, impaired immune response and overgrowth of stem cells. It also separated out these changes into cause and effect and identified ‘intervention points’ where the negative results of microbial imbalance could potentially be prevented.
The number of bacteria in fly intestines increases dramatically with age, leading to an inflammatory condition. This imbalance is driven by chronic activation of a stress response gene, which suppresses the activity of a class of molecules known as PGRP-SCs that normally work to regulate immune response to bacteria.
The rapid growth of bacteria in fly intestines triggers an inflammatory response, formation of free radicals and eventually leads to a dangerous pre-cancerous condition known as epithelial dysplasia.
Interestingly, when study researchers increased the expression of PGRP-SC molecules in fruit fly epithelial cells, gut microbial balance was restored and stem cell proliferation was suppressed. In fact, enhancement of PGRP-SC function was responsible for prolonging lifespan in these flies.
In other words, improving our understanding how aging affects gut bacteria in fruit flies as well as in people may turn out to be the key to both improving health and prolonging lifespan.
Millions of Americans suffer from digestive disorders ranging from irregularity and constipation to chronic diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). An easy and inexpensive remedy for these conditions is probiotics, or ‘good’ bacteria, which is now available conveniently as a supplement.
Take a probiotic supplement can improve digestive problems. Look for one that has a ‘delayed release’ to deliver the living probiotics necessary to balance your gut bacteria and relieve digestive disorders quickly - and as this study shows, likely to increase your chances of aging healthy and prolonging your lifespan.