Gut microbiota as the key controllers of "healthy" aging of elderly people

Immun Ageing. 2021 Jan 5;18(1):2. doi: 10.1186/s12979-020-00213-w.


Extrinsic factors, such as lifestyle and diet, are shown to be essential in the control of human healthy aging, and thus, longevity. They do so by targeting at least in part the gut microbiome, a collection of commensal microorganisms (microbiota), which colonize the intestinal tract starting after birth, and is established by the age of three. The composition and abundance of individual microbiota appears to continue to change until adulthood, presumably reflecting lifestyle and geographic, racial, and individual differences. Although most of these changes appear to be harmless, a major shift in their composition in the gut (dysbiosis) can trigger harmful local and systemic inflammation. Recent reports indicate that dysbiosis is increased in aging and that the gut microbiota of elderly people is enriched in pro-inflammatory commensals at the expense of beneficial microbes. The clinical consequence of this change remains confusing due to contradictory reports and a high degree of variability of human microbiota and methodologies used. Here, we present the authors' thoughts that underscore dysbiosis as a primary cause of aging-associated morbidities, and thus, premature death of elderly people. We provide evidence that the dysbiosis triggers a chain of pathological and inflammatory events. Examples include alteration of levels of microbiota-affected metabolites, impaired function and integrity of the gastrointestinal tract, and increased gut leakiness. All of these enhance systemic inflammation, which when associated with aging is termed inflammaging, and result in consequent aging-associated pathologies.

Keywords: Aging; B cells; Commensals; IgA.

Publication types

  • Review