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Healthy gut bacteria help prevent age-related diseases

Gut bacteria

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(NaturalNews) Scientists experimenting with fruit flies in a bid to understand how some people can remain in good physical and mental health until a very old age while others do not are hinting that it might have something to do with the gut.

Indeed, other recent studies have also started linking diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's to changes in a person's gut bacteria. So far, however, researchers have been unable to pinpoint a direct cause.

"Age-onset decline is very tightly linked to changes within the community of gut microbes," senior author David Walker of the University of California, Los Angeles, told Agence France-Presse. "With age, the number of bacterial cells increase substantially and the composition of bacterial groups changes."

"We dramatically extended their lives"

The Walker team used fruit flies because they have a very short life span – a period of about eight weeks on average – and because of the diverse ages at which they die.

"One of the big questions in the biology of aging relates to the large variation in how we age and how long we live," Walker said.

In addition, scientists have managed to identify all of a fruit fly's genes and are thus able to switch them off and on individually. That capability adds a number of variables to experiments and research.

Agence France-Presse reported further:

Springboarding off previous research in which they observed that the flies develop leaky guts within days before dying, they analyzed the gut bacteria -- collectively referred to as the microbiota -- of more than 10,000 female flies.

They isolated a group of flies to which they gave antibiotics to reduce the number of species found in the intestinal tract, resulting in improved digestive function as they aged.

"When we prevented the changes in the intestinal microbiota that were linked to the flies' imminent death by feeding them antibiotics, we dramatically extended their lives and improved their health," Walker told AFP.

After the leaking started, flies that were given antibiotics lived for an average of 20 days, which is a substantial period of time given their average short lifespans.

"The health of the intestine -- in particular the maintenance of the barrier protecting the rest of the body from the contents of the gut -- is very important and might break down with aging," lead author Rebecca Clark of Durham University in the UK said.

Gut health is good

Working in conjunction with researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, the team produced a batch of flies that had no germs at all and whose guts were devoid of microbes. Those flies lived an average of 80 days or about 1.5 times longer than flies that had not been altered.

The study followed another in which researchers were able to map out how microbiota change over the course of a lifetime. The earlier study has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Reports.

Researchers have long known that a healthy gut is the key to overall wellness. In 2013, Natural News reported that researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta were surprised to discover that healthy gut bacteria helped to regrow damaged intestinal tissues:

Specifically, Lactobacillus bacteria was observed to stimulate the production and cellular proliferation of NADPH oxidase 1 (Nox1)-dependent ROS (reactive oxygen species), which serve as signaling messengers for the various systems of the body that regulate normal and healthy biology. Without these important messengers, the digestive system in particular can go awry, resulting in metabolic and infectious disorders, allergies and gut conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.

"It is well-known that mammals live in a homeostatic symbiosis with their gut microbiota and that they influence a wide range of physiological processes. However, the molecular mechanisms of the symbiotic cross-talk in the gut are largely unrecognized," said Andrew S. Neish, a professor at the Emory University School of Medicine and leader of the research.

"In our study, we have discovered that Lactobacilli can stimulate reactive oxygen species that have regulatory effects on intestinal stem cells, including the activation of proliferation of these cells."

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