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Another clue in the secrets of a longer healthier life

February 2014

Is there more to a healthy gut than just feeling comfortable?

In September last year here at Laterlife we wrote a story on probiotics and prebiotics and all the commercial products that have recently come onto the market which publicise their benefit to rebalance the “friendly” and “unfriendly” bacteria in our gut.

Now there is some really interesting new information that shows the balance of good and bad bacteria in our intestines is even more important than previously thought.

As we age we undergo natural changes in our gut which can result in the imbalance between good and bad bacteria.

However, this new research indicates that getting the right balance of gut bacteria will not only help us feel more comfortable about our digestive systems but could seriously contribute towards a longer life.

The Buck Institute for Research on Ageing, based in California, has reported on a recent study that indicates a real link between the changes that we experience in our gut as we age and the production of “free radicals”.  Free radicals can cause over-production of stem cells and are associated with the development of cancer, diabetes and other serious health problems.

The research was led by Dr Heinrich Jasper and sounded so interesting Laterlife contacted the Buck Institute for more information.

It seems it all started when Dr Jasper’s team was undertaking some research on fruit flies. They found that the bacterial load in the flies’ intestines increased dramatically as the flies aged. This imbalance triggered an inflammatory response and led to an over production of free radicals and stem cells in the gut.

So Dr Jasper and his team took on research to find out more.

First, they found confirmation that the increasing imbalance of good and bacteria in the gut is driven by increasing activation of a gene that responds to stress. This gene (FOXO) suppresses the activity of a molecule that is involved with the immune system’s response to bacteria. The changes allow bacterial numbers to expand, leading to the overproduction of free radicals and stem cells.

Dr Jasper told Laterlife that he felt one of the most exciting aspects of the research was when they found definite evidence that by restoring the bacteria balance in the gut, the overproduction of free radicals and stem cells was reduced.

“If we can find a way to prevent the spread of bad bacteria, we may have unlocked one of the secrets of ageing,” he said.

“By understanding how ageing affects our gut bacteria, first in the fly and then in humans, our data suggests that we should be able to impact our health and life span quite strongly,” he said.

At the moment his research is still continuing...but in the meantime by keeping our gut as healthy as possible, not only will we be more comfortable, but we may even be contributing towards a longer, healthier life.


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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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