How to live longer: Probiotics could ‘protect against chronic diseases’ – gut microbiome

The health benefits of probiotics explained

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Scientists postulated that the bacteria living in the intestinal tract “could have an influence on how well we age”. To investigate, a team at McGill University fed fruit flies a combination of probiotics and a herbal supplement called Triphala. The research, carried out by the Canadian university, showed that the consumption of probiotics and Triphala prolonged the flies’ longevity by 60 percent. Moreover, the authors noted that the dietary change also protected the fruit flies “against chronic diseases associated with ageing”.

To expand, the fruit flies fed the probiotic and supplement-rich diet showed less insulin resistance, less inflammation, and less oxidative stress.

“Probiotics dramatically change the architecture of the gut microbiota,” noted Satya Prakash, professor of biomedical engineering in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine.

The senior author of the study added that probiotics change the gut microbiome composition and how the foods we eat are metabolised.

“This allows a single probiotic formulation to simultaneously act on several biochemical signalling pathways to elicit broad beneficial physiological effects,” Professor Prakash elaborated.

Why scientists test on fruit flies

Fruit flies are “remarkably similar to mammals with about 70 percent similarity in terms of their biochemical pathways”.

Professor Prakash then assured that testing on fruit flies is a “good indicator of what would happen in humans”.

“The effects in humans would likely not be as dramatic, but our results definitely suggest that a diet specifically incorporating Triphala along with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life,” the professor stated.

What was in the Triphala supplement?

Triphala is a combination of amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki – fruits used as medicinal plants in Ayurveda (a form of traditional Indian medicine).

“Probiotics dramatically change the architecture of the gut microbiota,” noted Satya Prakash, professor of biomedical engineering in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine.

The senior author of the study added that probiotics change the gut microbiome composition and how the foods we eat are metabolised.

“This allows a single probiotic formulation to simultaneously act on several biochemical signalling pathways to elicit broad beneficial physiological effects,” Professor Prakash elaborated.

To expand, the fruit flies fed the probiotic and supplement-rich diet showed less insulin resistance, less inflammation, and less oxidative stress.

Co-author, Doctor Susan Westfall (PhD) was surprised how “successful the formulation would be”, joining Triphala with probiotics.

Probiotics

The NHS explained “probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts” that are “usually added to yoghurts”.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) – the association of UK dieticians –said probiotics are “good” bacteria that can improve the balance and function of the gut bacteria.

The BDA explained: “When we eat or drink probiotics they compete for space and for food with potentially harmful bacteria – evicting them from our gut.

“Probiotics also stimulate our own immune system to help it fight infections better.”

Probiotics can also help people to digest fibre from the diet, helping to keep the gut lining healthy.

While probiotics are generally considered safe for people of all ages, those who are immunocompromised should seek specific advice from a doctor or dietitian before consuming probiotics.

The gut microbiome

Professor David Cunningham, a consultant medical oncologist, shared that the gut microbiome is “trillions of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and viruses” that live in the gastrointestinal tract.

“Our microbiome affects our digestion, immune system, mood and cognitive function,” Professor Cunningham added.

Research is currently ongoing, but the notion is that altering the gut microbiome could reduce the risk of bowel cancer, for example, thereby extending longevity.

“While this is a really exciting area of work with enormous potential, microbiome science is very complex,” said Professor Cunningham.

A lot more research is needed in this growing field of interest, which could improve a person’s quality – and length – of life.

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