What is the secret of healthy ageing? How can we ensure a long existence, while maintaining a high quality of life and a strong health? These were the topics of the webinar held on July 13th 2021, organised by IPA Europe in collaboration with the International 11th Congress Probiotics, Prebiotics and new Foods.
Featuring Professor Claudio Franceschi and Professor Patrizia Brigidi, both from the University of Bologna, Italy, the webinar was attended by a wide public and had a lively Q&A session moderated by Sylvie Binda and Kristine Koppelhus of the IPA Europe Scientific Working Group.
The potential of probiotics for cognitive health and improved resistance to disease in healthy ageing has been widely researched by the webinar speakers, Claudio Franceschi, Professor Emeritus at the University of Bologna, and Patrizia Brigidi, Full Professor in Fermentation Biotechnology at the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, also at the University of Bologna.
Prof. Patrizia Brigidi introduced the topic of the structural and functional specificity of the elderly-type microbiota. Prof. Brigidi presented the most recent results about the role of the microbiome for healthy ageing, describing several factors that are age-dependent.
“The microbiome of centenarians is a unique model to study the relationship between gut micriobiota and healthy ageing”Patrizia Brigidi
Prof Brigidi explained that the gut microbiome describes an adaptive trajectory along human aging, providing the host with the specific ecological services which are calibrated for each stage of our life. However, whereas there are many published papers describing the microbiome profile in infants and in adults in both health and disease conditions, much less is known about the microbiome of the elderly. Several questions are still open, such as: does the microbiome have a role in healthy ageing?
Does the microbiome have a role in healthy ageing? Some specific metabolites can be related to changes in centenarian’s microbiota.
Some peculiarities have emerged in semi-supercentenarians, a distinctive enrichment of health-associated taxa, Akkermansia and Christensenellaceae which could contribute to reduce metaflammation, and in particular the inflammation related to aging. The positive trend concerns also the abundance presence of Bifidobacteria in centenarians and supercentenarians, so this preliminary data suggests that Bifidobacteria can be seen as positive in counteracting the proteolytic layout that is characteristic of aging.
Highlighting the connection between immune health and aging
Prof. Franceschi presented the result of a research on the critical role of the immune system in the aging process, “a Clock’ created to predict the immunological health and chronic diseases of aging”, published in July 2021.
The study, conducted together with researchers from the University of Stanford, has created an inflammatory clock of aging (iAge) which measures inflammatory load and predicts multi-morbidity, frailty, immune health, cardiovascular aging and is also associated with exceptional longevity in centenarians.
The microbiome: an unbelievable genetic machinery which can be modified by diet and with the use of probiotics.
Recent research has revealed that certain social, environmental and lifestyle factors can promote systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) that can, in turn, lead to several diseases. Those results were published in December 2019 in “Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across life span” suggesting that several diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, autoimmunity neurodegenerative disorder, all have a chronic inflammation at their bases.
Prof. Franceshi explained that the microbiome is the only modifiable genome, and the number of genes that are present in the microbes are between 30 and 50 times the genes of our genome, so it is an unbelievable genetic machinery which can be modified by diet and with the use of probiotics!
An appropriate diet can play a strong role in the decrease of inflammaging.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, is able to counteract inflammation, and reduce inflammaging; this was further explored in the European project Nu Age where prof. Franceschi was coordinator. A total of 1294 volunteers from Italy, France, The Netherlands, Poland and UK were randomly divided into following the Mediterranean diet for one year in the framework of the Nu Age project: the more the people followed the Mediterranean diet, the more they had a positive effect, the rejuvenating effect, having a very strong effect on the gut microbiota. The results of the project show that ‘You can put back your biological age with a nutritional intervention: the Mediterranean diet has very profound biological metabolic effect on most of the organs of the body not only on the gut but also the brain and the liver.
In conclusion we have learnt really exciting things especially on the microbiome, but also the key role of diet and especially the fact that we can intervene on diet at any age. However, to see some changes in the centenary and keep the levels to be a centenarian, we need probably more insight. Developing and maintaining a healthy gut microbiota has been recognized as essential through life, but becomes more challenging with age.