Gut health linked to frailty in the elderly, research finds
A new study on gut bacteria may have implications for long-term care facilities' nutrition and dietary departments.
While several recent studies have shown that people with healthier diets have healthier, more diverse microbiota living in their gut, investigators led by Paul O'Toole, Ph.D, of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork in Ireland, sought to find out how differences in microbiota affect aging.
To do this, the researchers studied the gut health of 178 elderly individuals. They found that those who still resided in their own communities had more diverse intestinal flora and were healthiest, while institutionalized elderly people had less variety and tended to be sicker. O'Toole said those in a long-term care facilities had less varied foods, such as puddings and mashed potatoes, while those who were living independently had a diverse diet with higher levels of fiber and protein.
"The diet of older people changes quickly when they move from community to long-term care [in a couple of weeks], but the microbiota changes more slowly — up to a year for full change from community type to long-term residential type," O'Toole said.
This finding could help scientists develop dietary interventions to improve overall health, O'Toole and his team wrote, and could mean a demand for fiber-rich, fresh foods in institutional settings.
The study was published July 13 in Nature.