Finding The Fountain Of Youth In The Gut

The Japanese secret to a long and healthy life isn’t just ikigai. In centenarians, gut microbiomes may help block harmful bacteria and promote longevity.

AsianScientist (Aug. 5, 2021) – According to scientists from Japan, the elusive secret to long life may be tucked away in our gut. By producing unique bile acids that block the growth of pathogens, bacteria in our gut may promote longevity, detailed research published in Nature.

Beyond iconic food like ramen, UNIQLO and countless manga classics, Japan is perhaps best known for having an extraordinarily high concentration of centenarians, or people aged 100 years and above. From eating healthy, vegetable-rich diets to finding an ikigai, various factors have been proposed as the key to longevity. But the fountain of youth may be much smaller and closer than we think.

Previous studies have shown that centenarians are less prone to age-related chronic diseases and infections compared to elderly individuals below the age of 100. This curious trend may be linked to changes in our gut microbiomes, or the thriving microbial community in our intestines that play a crucial role in health. However, the exact mechanism remains unclear.

To probe this potential link between microbiome composition and longevity, the team of Professor Kenya Honda from Keio University studied three groups of Japanese people: centenarians, elderly individuals aged 85-89 years old and younger participants aged 21-55 years old.

Compared to elderly and young individuals, the centenarians had an abundance of gut microbes capable of generating a unique compound called isoallo-lithocholic acid (isoalloLCA) through newly-discovered biosynthetic pathways.

Remarkably, they observed that isoalloLCA had antimicrobial effects against a range of gut pathogens—including the notorious Clostridium difficile, which can cause severe diarrhea especially in people being treated with antibiotics. Accordingly, these compounds may block such harmful pathogens from colonizing and disrupting the delicate balance of microbes in the gut.

Given these findings, the authors suggest that it may be possible to harness the isoalloLCA-metabolizing capabilities of the gut microbiome to potentially develop treatments against C. difficile and other antibiotic-resistant intestinal bugs.

“To our knowledge, isoalloLCA is one of the most potent antimicrobial agents selective against gram-positive microbes…it may contribute to the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis by enhancing colonization resistance mechanisms,” concluded the authors.

The article can be found at: Sato et al. (2021) Novel bile acid biosynthetic pathways are enriched in the microbiome of centenarians.


Source: Keio University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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