The body’s ability to heal itself is one of the best predictors of longevity.
For the first time, a new study from the University of Alberta, however, suggests that an even more important factor may be your microbiome.
The study found that a person’s body composition can significantly influence the health of his or her microbiome, and that this can be a factor in how quickly the body’s immune system attacks a host.
This is important because the immune system has an enormous impact on the body, and immune-mediated infections, such as those that cause Crohn’s disease, are the leading cause of death worldwide.
In this study, researchers looked at a group of more than 100 people who had been diagnosed with Crohn and Colitis, and found that those with the most microbial diversity had the longest lifespans.
“People with more diverse microbes are healthier and have better immune systems,” says Dr. Robert Zalewski, the study’s senior author and a professor of medicine at the University Of Alberta.
“They live longer and longer.”
In fact, the researchers found that people who lived longer lived more than their more typical counterparts.
For example, those who lived for longer than 12 years had a median age of 72, compared to 72 for those who died at about the same age.
They also had higher levels of overall body fat, and lower levels of insulin and leptin than those who had died younger.
Other factors that can affect the immune response include a family history of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and certain antibiotics that can interfere with the body trying to heal.
“It is a very complex and multifaceted process,” says Zalewskis co-author and professor of microbiology at the Department of Medical Genetics at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re not getting all of your [microbial] responses from the gut.”
In this case, that’s the microbiome.
“The microbiome is the whole ecosystem that we live in,” says study co-researcher Dr. Michael A. Johnson, a professor in the University College London department of medicine and an expert in microbial ecology.
“If you’re just thinking about your diet and not looking at the microbes in your gut, you’re missing out on many things.”
The researchers studied more than 150 healthy adults and 120 patients who were diagnosed with chronic inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn disease, or ulcerative colitis, a group that includes Crohn.
Each had a stool sample taken from each, and the researchers collected stool samples from each person’s stool, as well as from a stool from their intestines.
This allowed them to determine the bacterial diversity in the intestines of the healthy participants.
They then analyzed the stool samples for their different microbial communities.
The results revealed that people with more diversity in their gut had significantly longer life spans.
“A higher percentage of diversity in gut microbial communities was associated with longer life span,” the researchers wrote.
They concluded that the microbiome plays a significant role in how well the immune and host systems react to infections.
“This is an important finding because it indicates that the immune systems are able to rapidly recognize a host’s microbiome,” Johnson said.
The findings are published online in the journal Nature Medicine.
Johnson says the study also shows that the effects of age on the immune reaction are not limited to the digestive tract.
“There are a number of other changes that occur in the immune responses of people who are older than their peers,” he says.
“These changes are particularly important for patients with Crohns.”
The study involved collecting stool samples in the lab and analyzing the bacteria in the stool.
The researchers also compared the microbiomes of patients and healthy people.
Johnson said the results could be important for people living with Crocids, since the gut is an area of high microbial diversity.
“For people with Crocus infections, it’s a big problem.
The microbiome is a key part of the immune defense against infections,” he said.
“In this study it’s clear that a more diverse microbiome may help prevent the inflammatory response in this group of people.”
Johnson says that this research provides a solid foundation for the future development of more effective treatments for inflammatory bowel diseases, such a probiotics.
For people with chronic Crohn, he recommends getting a blood test, and then being tested every three to four months, after a course of antibiotics have cleared the bacteria from the body.
For Crohn-related infections, the team recommends using a probiotic supplement.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Research.
The full study can be found at the link below: http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v10.1038/nm.3095/abstract?id=pbp_pb_bq5j