By Lola Augustine Brown
Very healthy adults appear to have something in common—or rather trillions of things in common: the bacteria that make up the environment in their gastrointestinal tracts. According to the results of a joint study by Chinese and Canadian researchers, healthy aging and a healthy microbiome go together.
The study, one of the largest conducted on human bacterial colonies (microbiota), involved more than 1,000 Chinese participants who were extremely healthy and had no family history of disease: whether they were 30, older than 100, or anywhere in between, they all had healthy and diverse microbiota. The results were published in the American Society for Microbiology journal mSphere.
The collaboration was an initiative of the new China-Canada Institute, which brings together researchers from Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson Health Research Institute, both in London, ON, and Tianyi Heaklth Science Institute in Zhenjiang, China.
In a press release, principal investigator Greg Gloor said the main conclusion is that “if you are ridiculously healthy and 90 years old, your gut microbiota is not that different from a healthy 30-year-old in the same population.”
Gloor, a professor at Western and a scientist at Lawson, added, “Whether this is cause or effect is unknown.” That is, the study can’t prove whether those 90-year-olds are in excellent health because their bodies are somehow naturally endowed with better microbiomes or have healthy guts because they take great care of their health. That cause-and-effect relationship will be the subject of much further study.