Review| Volume 75, ISSUE 1, P44-50, May 2013

Probiotics and prebiotics and health in ageing populations


      In healthy adults microbial communities that colonise different regions of the human colon contribute nutrients and energy to the host via the fermentation of non-digestible dietary components in the large intestine. A delicate balance of microbial species is required to maintain healthy metabolism and immune function. Disturbance in this microbial balance can have negative consequences for health resulting in elevated inflammation and infection, that are contributory factors in diabetes and cancer. There is a growing awareness that the microbial balance in the colon may become increasingly perturbed with aging and therefore hasten the onset of certain diseases. Societal and dietary factors influence microbial community composition both in the short and long term in the elderly (>65 years old) whilst immunosenescence may also be linked to a perturbed distal gut microbiota and frailty in the elderly. Significant progress has been made in defining some of the dominant members of the microbial community in the healthy large intestine and in identifying their roles in metabolism. There is therefore an urgent need for better awareness of the impact of diet, prebiotic and probiotic strategies in driving human colonic microbial composition in order to understand the possibilities for maintaining healthy gut function and well-being in an increasingly elderly population. Here we review gut microbial changes associated with aging and how diet, prebiotics and probiotics may modulate the gut microbiota to maintain health in the elderly.


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