So how do you live to be 100 and stay healthy? A new study shows that the answer may lie in our gut. The gut microbiome, the billions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our intestinal tract, are linked to mood, memory, body weight and disease. But what makes the gut healthy and protected from disease? The answer may have to do with viruses eating the bacteria that live in the gut.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied the vira of 176 healthy Japanese long-livers to find out which bacteriophages, viruses that eat bacteria, help them maintain good health at such an advanced age. Using an algorithm they developed, the researchers mapped the gut bacteria and bacteriophages of the long-livers. Compared to adults over 18 and over 60, they found that long-livers had a more diverse and richer gut virus and a variety of bacteria.
“We found high biodiversity of both bacteria and viruses in long-livers,” said Joachim Johansen, lead author of the study. “High microbial diversity is usually associated with a healthy gut microbiome. And we expect people with a healthy gut microbiome to be better protected against diseases associated with aging.”
The study showed that viruses that infect bacteria can strengthen the bacteria they interact with, positively affecting health. They can accelerate the transformation of certain molecules in the gut, which can serve to stabilize gut flora and counteract inflammation.
The researchers say their findings may help us understand which specific bacteria and viruses we should optimize to protect the body from disease. If we discover bacteria and viruses that have a positive effect on the human gut flora, the next step is to find out whether only some or all of us have them. If we can make these bacteria and their viruses live with people who don’t have them, more people might benefit.
This study supports the theory that the gut microbiome plays an important role in our health and longevity. But not only viruses, but other microorganisms, such as probiotics, can help us live to be 100 years old. One study showed that villagers in Ecuador, where people live to 100 years old, had high concentrations of probiotics in their guts.
However, we should not forget that the gut microbiome can be compromised by factors such as antibiotics, stress, poor diet and other factors. Therefore, to maintain a healthy gut microbiome, you need to eat right, manage stress and avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics.
Overall, research shows that our health depends on many factors, including the gut microbiome. And if we monitor it and optimize its composition, we can increase our chances of a long and healthy life.