It's said for centuries - You are what you eat. Science now tells us that we are what the bacteria living in our intestinal tract eat, and this could have an influence on how well we age. This is the research result from a gourp of McGill University scientists.
The study provides new evidence on how the gut bacteria can influence our health.
The researchers incorporated a symbiotic—made of probiotics with a herbal supplement called Triphala that is a polyphenol-rich supplement—into the diet of fruit flies. They were able to prolong the filies' longevity by 60% and protect them against chronic diseases associated with aging.
The average life span of the flies is 40 days. The flies fed with the synbiotic lived up to 66 days old—26 days more than the ones without the supplement. They also showed reduced traits of aging, such as mounting insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress.
"Probiotics dramatically change the architecture of the gut microbiota, not only in its composition but also in respect to how the foods that we eat are metabolized," says Satya Prakash, professor of biomedical engineering in McGill's Faculty of Medicine and senior author of the study. "This allows a single probiotic formulation to simultaneously act on several biochemical signaling pathways to elicit broad beneficial physiological effects, and explains why the single formulation we present in this paper has such a dramatic effect on so many different markers".
The fruit fly is remarkably similar to mammals with about 70 % similarity in terms of their biochemical pathways, making it a good indicator of what would happen in humans, adds Prakash.
The findings can be explained by the "gut-brain axis," a bidirectional communication system between microorganisms residing in the gastrointestinal tract—the microbiota—and the brain. In the past few years, studies have shown the gut-brain axis to be involved in neuropathological changes and a variety of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, neurodegeneration and even depression.
The researchers don't expect the effects in humans as dramatic as in flies, but the research result does suggest that a diet specifically incorporating Triphala along with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life.
The herbal supplement used in the study, Triphala, is a formulation made from amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki, fruits used as medicinal plants in Ayurveda, a form of traditional Indian medicine.