Many oral bacteria reduce inorganic nitrate, a natural part of a vegetable-rich diet, into nitrite that acts as a precursor to nitric oxide, a regulator of vascular tone and neurotransmission. Aging is hallmarked by reduced nitric oxide production with associated detriments to cardiovascular and cognitive function. This study applied a systems-level bacterial co-occurrence network analysis across 10-day dietary nitrate and placebo interventions to test the stability of relationships between physiological and cognitive traits and clusters of co-occurring oral bacteria in older people. Relative abundances of Proteobacteria increased, while Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Fusobacteria decreased after nitrate supplementation. Two distinct microbiome modules of co-occurring bacteria, that were sensitive to nitrate supplementation, showed stable relationships with cardiovascular (Rothia-Streptococcus) and cognitive (Neisseria-Haemophilus) indices of health across both dietary conditions. A microbiome module (Prevotella-Veillonella) that has been associated with pro-inflammatory metabolism was diminished after nitrate supplementation, including a decrease in relative abundance of pathogenic Clostridium difficile. These nitrate-sensitive oral microbiome modules are proposed as potential pre- and probiotic targets to ameliorate age-induced impairments in cardiovascular and cognitive health.
Keywords: Aging; Nitric oxide; Oral microbiome.
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