Pérez Martínez G, Bäuerl C, Collado MC. - - Benef Microbes. 2014 Sep;5(3):235-46

Understanding gut microbiota in elderly’s health will enable intervention through probiotics

Today, advances in the public health system of most countries have managed to extend notably life expectancy, however, elderly’s health remain as a very serious concern. The lifelong stimulation of innate and adaptive immune systems leads to immunosenescence and, as result, to a low ability to produce immunoglobulins against pathogens but also to a low-grade chronic inflammatory state (inflammaging) that is linked to most age-related health problems, such as dementia, Alzheimer or atherosclerosis. This inflammatory state could make the host more sensitive to intestinal microbes, or vice versa, as changes in the gut microbiota composition are related to the progression of diseases and frailty in the elderly population. It was considered that gut microbiota changed during aging, with an increase of Bacteroidetes vs. Firmicutes proportion and a reduction of bifidobacterial counts, however recent studies reported a great inter-individual variation among elderly and a significant relationship between gut microbiota, diet and institution or community living. Intervention studies of probiotics and prebiotics in elderly are not very abundant, but most cases showed that Bifidobacterium populations can efficiently be stimulated with a concomitant decrease of Enterobacteria. Furthermore, also some studies demonstrated that probiotics decreased the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines which are upregulated in the elderly, such as interleukin (IL)-8, IL-6 or tumour necrosis factor ?, among others, and they increased the levels of activated lymphocytes, natural killer cells, phagocytic activity and even showed a greater response to influenza vaccination. This suggests that direct manipulation of the gut microbiota may improve adaptive immune response and reduce inflammatory secretions, therefore compensating immunosenescence effects, however, there are no records of their effect on clinical symptoms or risk for disease. Those facts reveal that this is an open research field with very good scientific perspectives and above all they could bring likely improvements in the wellbeing of our seniors.