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J Appl Microbiol. 2007 May;102(5):1178-86.

Intestinal bacteria and ageing.

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1
Smith and Nephew Research Centre, York, UK. emma.woodmansey@smith-nephew.com

Abstract

Advancements in science and medicine, as well as improved living standards, have led to a steady increase in life expectancy, and subsequently a rise in the elderly population. The intestinal microbiota is important for maintenance of host health, providing energy, nutrients and protection against invading organisms. Although the colonic microbiota is relatively stable throughout adult life, age-related changes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, as well as changes in diet and host immune system reactivity, inevitably affect population composition. Recent studies indicate shifts in the composition of the intestinal microbiota, which may lead to detrimental effects for the elderly host. Increased numbers of facultative anaerobes, in conjunction with a decrease in beneficial organisms such as the anaerobic lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, amongst other anaerobes, have been reported. These changes, along with a general reduction in species diversity in most bacterial groups, and changes to diet and digestive physiology such as intestinal transit time, may result in increased putrefaction in the colon and a greater susceptibility to disease. Therapeutic strategies to counteract these changes have been suggested in ageing people. These include dietary supplements containing prebiotics, probiotics and a combination of both of these, synbiotics. Limited feeding trials show promising results with these supplements, although further longer-term investigations are required to substantiate their use in elderly healthcare fields.

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