Gut Microbes Could Unlock Secrets To Healthy Aging

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Recent research presented at the ESC Congress 2020 suggests that bacteria and other microorganisms within the digestive tract are linked to dozens of conditions such as BMI, high blood lipids, and high blood pressure. 

“Our study indicates that microbiota might have an important role in maintaining health and could help us develop novel treatments,” said study author Dr. Hilde Groot of University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands.

This study investigated multiple diseases and other traits in one cohort to reveal for the first time the extent to which the gut microbiome influences sickness and health using genetic data as a proxy for microbiome composition. 

 “Previous research has shown that the human gut microbiome composition could be partially explained by genetic variants. So, instead of directly measuring the make-up of the microbiome, we used genetic alterations to estimate its composition,” explained Groot. 

This study involved 422,417 unrelated participants in the UK Biobank with an average age of 57 years old, who had undergone genotyping to identify their genetic makeup, and data was collected on a wide range of diseases as well as other characteristics such as blood pressure and BMI. 

Higher levels of 11 bacteria were found to be associated with 28 health and disease outcomes including COPD, atopy, BMI, high blood lipids, high blood pressure, and frequency of alcohol intake; for example, higher levels of the genus Ruminococcus was linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure. 

“What we eat and drink is connected to microbiome content, so we studied the links with meat, caffeine, and alcohol. We observed a relationship between raised levels of Methanobacterium and drinking alcohol more often. It is important to stress that this is an association, not a causal relation, and more research is needed,” said Groot about alcohol consumption. 

“Considering that the results were observed in one cohort, this cautiously supports the notion that microbiota and the substances they produce (called metabolites) provide links between numerous diseases and conditions. The findings may help identify common pathways. Nevertheless, more research (for example in other cohorts) is needed to validate our findings,” said Groot. 

 “Follow-up studies are required to study causality before giving concrete advice to the public and health professionals. This study provides clues where to go,” concluded Groot. 

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