by Lisa Keilhofer

Fountain of youth found – it lies within your gut microbiome

The gut microbiome – the fountain of youth?
The gut microbiome – the fountain of youth?

In March 2019, the CU Boulder online journal “CU Boulder Today” published an article on resent scientific outcomes of the research team around post-doc and lead-author Vienna Brunt of the Department of Integrative Physiology.

It is a long-known fact that aging increases your risk to suffer from cardiovascular diseases. Also, the main culprit, higher levels of inflammation values, were well investigated. What is new is the stunning insight that with increasing age your gut microbiome turns “bad” and allows more and more harmful bacteria to dwell inside your guts that encourage the mentioned illnesses.

Gut microbiome turns against its host

The underlying study (the full publication from February 2019 can be found in the “Journal of Physiology”) is based on experiments with young and old mice that were treated with a broad-range of antibiotics in order to kill their gut microbiome. Later, the arteries of both groups were examined regarding their stiffness of the vessels, and appearance of inflammable substances, free radicals, antioxidants, and nitrogen oxides.

The result is as surprising as this: after a three-weeks antibiotics course, the young mice showed unaffected cardiovascular pathologies. The old mice, however, showed remarkable improvements in theirs.

As Dough Seals, senior author and director of the responsible lab, summarizes, the cardiovascular quality of the old mice was brought on the level of the young mice basically by destroying their microbiome.

Antibiotics treatments for a longer life?

The research team identified a reduced level of pro-inflammatory microbes like Proteobacteria (e.g. Salmonella) and Desulfovibrio in the treated mice. Comparison groups of old mice showed these bacteria and they were linked to cardiovascular illnesses in previous studies. In addition, the untreated comparison groups showed TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), also previously associated with arteriosclerosis, heart attack and stroke, on a level three times higher the level of young mice.

Seals and his team are suspecting that the microbiome is changing for the worse in the course of a lifetime and produces increasing levels of these substances.

So, is this the solution? Destroying the dysfunctional microbiome with a three-weeks antibiotics treatment and reduce the risk of illnesses to that of youths?

The authors are explicitly refraining from this suggestion. The incalculable side-effects of antibiotics outweigh the potential benefits of such radical measures. It is, however, a wise conclusion to change your diet with continuing aging and steer clear of pro-inflammatory foods to support your microbiome. This can be achieved by probiotic nutrition like yogurt and kefir, and by prebiotic foods like fruits, vegetables and others rich in fibres. Furthermore, it is advisable to include high-quality olive oil, vinegar and red wine in your meal plan for the dimethyl butanol in it is helping to block the harmful trimethylamine N-oxides (TMAO).

An accompanying editorial (Cryan, Boehme, Dinan, März 2019, only accessible after registration) summarizes: the older you get the more important it is to take care of your microbiome.

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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