Gut Microbiome of Health Very Old Similar To Younger Adults Interview with:
Greg Gloor, PhD
Principal investigator
Professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and
Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We sampled the bacteria in the gut (stool) in over 1000 members of a super healthy population in China across the age ranges of 3 to over 100. Exclusion criteria included a history of genetic or chronic disease (intergenerational in the case of people younger than 30), no smoking, drinking or drug use (including no prescription drugs).

Our goal was to identify what, if any changes in the makeup of the gut microbiota occurred in this population so that we could define “what is associated with health”.

We found three things.

  • First, that the expected differences between the very young and everyone else were found in this population. This indicates that we could observe the standards signatures of a maturing gut microbiota.
  • Second, that the gut microbiota of very healthy very elderly group (over 95 yo) was very similar to that of any very healthy person over the age of 30.
  • Third, we found that the gut microbiota of 20yo people (in three distinct groups) was different from all other age groups. The reason for the differences observed in the 20 yo groups from all the others is unknown, but is not methodological in origin. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are three main implications:

  • 1) The study shows that losing diversity, or ‘important’ species from the bacterial population is not an inevitable part of healthy ageing. In fact, we found that the microbiota from the healthy aged had similar levels of almost all types of bacteria as was found in anyone over the age of 30.
  • 2) The study shows that the gut microbiota of each population we study contains similarities and differences with other populations. The large deviation of 20 yo people from the norm in this population has not been seen in other populations. However, we verified the change in an independent cohort, but the reason remains unexplained.
  • 3) The study used a new method of analysis, adapted from the fields of economics and geology, that is much more robust and reproducible than traditional methods. This is a first complete case study of what is known as compositional data analysis applied in a large scale to the study of the microbiota. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We need to collect appropriate control cohorts for our studies. We may need to collect these cohorts on a per-population basis for comparison to individuals with poor health status. We need to do more research to understand what if any individual species are associated with perfect health, or it may be that we will find that it is simply maintaining the diversity that is important. We need to be including the microbiome as an important factor when we think about personalized medicine. The microbiome is an important contributor to health status along with genetics, drug regimen, diet and exercise. 

Disclosures: The Tianyi Health Sciences Institute (THSI) is a private, not-for-profit entity. G.B., A.G., C.J., Y.X., and J.L. are employed by the THSI. G.B.G., G.R., J.P.B., and K.Y. are members of the scientific advisory board of the THSI. The work described here is not currently protected by patent nor is it the subject of a patent application. All other authors declare that they have no competing interests. Members of the THSI and advisory board played significant roles in design, collection, and analysis, as outlined in the authors’ contributions listed above. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Gaorui Bian, Gregory B. Gloor, Aihua Gong, Changsheng Jia, Wei Zhang, Jun Hu, Hong Zhang, Yumei Zhang, Zhenqing Zhou, Jiangao Zhang, Jeremy P. Burton, Gregor Reid, Yongliang Xiao, Qiang Zeng, Kaiping Yang, Jiangang Li. The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Aged Chinese Is Similar to That of the Healthy YoungmSphere, 2017; 2 (5): e00327-17 DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00327-17

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.


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Last Updated on October 18, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD