The older people get, the more vulnerable they become to specific diseases. As we advance in years, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, or adult-onset diabetes, for example, become increasingly more frequent. In experiments on mice and monkeys, US scientists have now found that insulin resistance, a cause of diabetes, can be reversed using good and healthy bacteria. German radio station Deutschlandfunk reported this in an article by Christine Westerhaus.
Researchers headed by Arya Biragyn of the Baltimore National Institute on Aging observed that “aged mice and monkeys have more bacteria in their gut which trigger inflammation. Useful bacteria such as Akkermansia muciniphila, however, disappear.“ According to Biragyn, Belgian researchers had already shown that if mice were given these useful bacteria, symptoms for type II diabetes lessened. Hence, he hypothesises that “it is the depletion of useful bacteria such as Akkermansia which causes insulin resistance in old mice and macaque monkeys.” After the US-American researchers had given the aged mice Akkermansia, the animals’ cells regained some of their insulin sensitivity and the symptoms of adult-onset diabetes disappeared.
This positive development, and the possible prevention of old-age diseases, may be copied for other diseases. In recent years, studies repeatedly demonstrated that the bacteria in our body (our microbiome) influence many diseases, among them cancer. As Deutschlandfunk quotes Arya Biragyn: “We have seen, for example, that the success of cancer treatments depends on the bacteria living in your gut. Hence, it is obvious that your body’s bacteria play a crucial role, in particular for the health of older people.”
It remains unclear why the composition of the microflora changes with age and the number of healthy bacteria declines. It may be an automatic function of the immune system, which becomes less effective in old age or is consciously powered down. However, changes to your diet, exercise regime, or lifestyle in general could also impact on bacterial diversity and hence your immune system. In Ireland, a first study has shown that “bacterial diversity in the gut declines in old people once they move into a nursing home and stop cooking for themselves”, the article says.
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