Gut inflammation associated with age and Alzheimer's disease pathology: a human cohort study

Sci Rep. 2023 Nov 14;13(1):18924. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-45929-z.


Age-related disease may be mediated by low levels of chronic inflammation ("inflammaging"). Recent work suggests that gut microbes can contribute to inflammation via degradation of the intestinal barrier. While aging and age-related diseases including Alzheimer's disease (AD) are linked to altered microbiome composition and higher levels of gut microbial components in systemic circulation, the role of intestinal inflammation remains unclear. To investigate whether greater gut inflammation is associated with advanced age and AD pathology, we assessed fecal samples from older adults to measure calprotectin, an established marker of intestinal inflammation which is elevated in diseases of gut barrier integrity. Multiple regression with maximum likelihood estimation and Satorra-Bentler corrections were used to test relationships between fecal calprotectin and clinical diagnosis, participant age, cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of AD pathology, amyloid burden measured using 11C-Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography (PiB PET) imaging, and performance on cognitive tests measuring executive function and verbal learning and recall. Calprotectin levels were elevated in advanced age and were higher in participants diagnosed with amyloid-confirmed AD dementia. Additionally, among individuals with AD dementia, higher calprotectin was associated with greater amyloid burden as measured with PiB PET. Exploratory analyses indicated that calprotectin levels were also associated with cerebrospinal fluid markers of AD, and with lower verbal memory function even among cognitively unimpaired participants. Taken together, these findings suggest that intestinal inflammation is linked with brain pathology even in the earliest disease stages. Moreover, intestinal inflammation may exacerbate the progression toward AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / pathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex / metabolism
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins