Boosting The Gut Microbiome To Increase Longevity

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Research shows that the bacteria living in our intestinal tract are fundamental to health and influence how we well we age. Now, scientists at McGill University have found that feeding fruit flies with a combination of probiotics and an herbal supplement called Triphala can increase their longevity by 60 percent and protect them against chronic diseases associated with aging.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study adds to a growing body of evidence supporting the role of the gut microbiome in human health and aging.

The researchers created a synbiotic (a combination of probiotics and prebiotics) consisting of three strains of probiotic bacteria (Lactobacillus plantarum [Lp8826], Lactobacillus fermentum [Lf5221], and Bifidobacteria longum spp. infantis [Bi702255]) and a polyphenol-rich supplement called Triphala, which is a formulation made from amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki, fruits used as medicinal plants in Ayurveda, a form of traditional Indian medicine.  

The flies fed with the synbiotic lived up to 66 days old - 26 days longer than the ones without the supplement!

The flies also showed reduced traits of aging, such as mounting insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

Fruit flies are remarkably similar to mammals with about 70% similarity in their biochemical pathways. Thus, making them a good indicator of what would happen in humans.

The authors believe that the effects are a result of the gut-brain axis – the bidirectional communication system between gut bacteria and the brain. Recent studies have demonstrated the involvement of the gut-brain axis in neuropathological changes and a variety of conditions such as IBS, neurodegeneration, and depression. However, few studies have successfully designed microbiome-modulating therapeutics with such potent or broad effects as in this study. 

The researchers concede that the effects are unlikely to be as dramatic in humans, but the results suggest that a diet incorporating Triphala with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life. Moreover, the research team sees applications in a number of human disorders such as diabetes, obesity, neurodegeneration, chronic inflammation, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer.

Reference

Westfall S, Lomis N and Prakash S. Longevity extension in Drosophila through gut-brain communication. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-25382-z