It is recognised that ageing induces various changes to the human colonic microbiota. Most relevant is a reduction in bifidobacteria, which is a health-positive genus. Prebiotics, such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), are dietary ingredients that selectively fortify beneficial gut microbial groups. Therefore, they have the potential to reverse the age-related decline in bifidobacteria and modulate associated health parameters. We assessed the effect of GOS mixture (Bimuno (B-GOS)) on gut microbiota, markers of immune function and metabolites in forty elderly (age 65-80 years) volunteers in a randomised, double-blind, placebo (maltodextrin)-controlled, cross-over study. The intervention periods consisted of 10 weeks with daily doses of 5·5 g/d with a 4-week washout period in between. Blood and faecal samples were collected for the analyses of faecal bacterial populations and immune and metabolic biomarkers. B-GOS consumption led to significant increases in bacteroides and bifidobacteria, the latter correlating with increased lactic acid in faecal waters. Higher IL-10, IL-8, natural killer cell activity and C-reactive protein and lower IL-1β were also observed. Administration of B-GOS to elderly volunteers may be useful in positively affecting the microbiota and some markers of immune function associated with ageing.
Keywords: Elderly; Galacto-oligosaccharides; Immunity; Microbiota; Prebiotics.