· 04 January 2018

Microorganisms in health and longevity

Por cenie
Microorganismos en la salud y la longevidad - Investigación, Ciencia

Billions of bacteria and other microorganisms naturally inhabit in our body, especially in our digestive tract and mainly in the colon. That group of bacteria which we live with, are known as microbiota or microbiome. And they are far more numerous than our own human cells. The balance between both is fundamental.

The microbiome is fundamental for health and longevity

Aging experts talk about several determinants of longevity. Divided equally would be the random conditions (luck in the end), natural conditions (in particular genetics), and environmental conditions (habits, environment, diet, or health in the womb before birth). And as a very innovative line, we start talking about the role of the microbiome as the cause of our differences in health, mortality and life expectancy between individuals.

Researchers are most interested in knowing how this group of microorganisms, bacteria, essential to live, interacts with us and these affect our health and diseases.

The total weight of the bacteria we live with can vary between 900 gr and almost 2 kilograms. We are inhabited by more than 40 thousand different species of bacteria. Most of the human microbiota is formed during the first two or three years of life, but we start to build it in the birth canal. The placenta has its own microbiome, and it is even possible that some part can be transferred to the fetus.

Each individual has its own microbiome

The group is specific for each person and situation. And its composition can be altered according to the diet, state of health, age, geographical location, or even the person’s stress. For example, taking antibiotics affects you. But the genetic composition of the whole picture remains, although the number of bacteria changes.

It is already said that microbiome could become the new fingerprint. A team from Harvard University seems to have confirmed that in the case of the microbiome, there are many aspects which are repeated among individuals, but the existing differences are enough to characterize each person (Identifying personal microbiomes using metagenomics codes, published in PNAS).

The relationship of the microbiome with health

Although it is known for a long time that we coexist with bacteria and other beneficial microorganisms essential for life, studies on these organisms as an ecosystem and their interaction with our cells is recent, and is very much in vogue (A decade studying the human microbiome). It is not uncommon the day that we do not mention that evidence has been found of the relationship that the microbiome has with a new aspect of health and even mood. In any case, known as the microbiota involved in the digestion and metabolism, it has defensive functions, including produce natural antibiotic, decreases high cholesterol, inactivate pollutants and toxic substances and generate anticancer materials and of course modulate aging. 

Altering the intestinal microbiome intervenes both diseases

It is related to the microbiome with obesity, with the tendency to decay, or autism. But it is that the alteration of the microbiome is a factor, essential and hitherto little known, which is involved in some types of allergies and various autoimmune diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, liver disorders, skin problems, some cancers and including degenerative processes of the nervous system. Recently it has been associated with Parkinson's and Alzheimer alterations of intestinal bacteria.

As test solution may have heard talk of fecal transplants (Breaking paradigms intestinal microbiota transplantation Preliminary report). It consists of transmitting bacteria from a healthy one sick of some intestinal issues like diarrhea or even in severe cases of obesity, and other diseases in which tested (Success of fecal transplants) patient. And there are benches stool provided for this purpose (see the first Dutch bank feces and works with its first donors and Open biome)

And how it does affect longevity?

Delaying the aging process might be possible one day with supplements derived from intestinal bacteria. In a recent project, they have investigated whether the genetic makeup of the microbiome could also be essential for longevity (published in Microbial Genetic Composition Tunes Host Longevity in the journal Cell) Gut microbes change with age. Carmen Pelaez told us of the Institute for Research in Food Science CSIC (author of the famous book ... What we know about 'The intestinal microbiota'? Editorial CSIC and waterfall).

The decline of microorganisms may contribute to increased inflammation and premature death, as they age, just inevitably suffer chronic low-grade inflammation. Several studies work on finding solutions to rebalance the intestinal microbiota to improve intestinal health and thus prevent age-related diseases. In this sense also they study the use of probiotics and prebiotics, but not yet proven its effectiveness in this regard.

In this regard, it is interesting to know what aspects unbalance the microbiome such as stress, artificial feeding, the recurrent use of antibiotics, regular consumption of refined sugar, lack of consumption of fruits and vegetables, various drugs: steroids, anti-inflammatories, contraceptives, laxatives, and so on. Or excessive alcohol consumption or high intake of dietary fat.

Source: Envejecimiento en Red

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal