Many recent nutrition and nutraceutical studies have focused on gut microbiota and its effects on physical health. However, there is also a lot of research focusing on gut microbiota and brain health & function.
A specific area of interest is how gut microbiota can affect cognitive function due to aging. Changing diets to be probiotic-friendly or using probiotic supplements to encourage gut microbiome diversity have been two areas of research that have produced some early results regarding cognitive function and health.
Gut Microbiota & Aging
As a process, aging leads to physiological and functional changes in the human body. As bodily functions slow down, the organs associated with those functions weaken. The brain is no different, and people can experience varying levels of cognitive decline as they age. Finding out why one person will age with only minor cognitive changes (very slight deterioration) while another will develop dementia has prompted researchers to look at every aspect of aging, which includes nutritional and dietary factors.
The challenges of painting a full picture of the gut microbiota and aging include several factors, such as:
- Do physical aging and the decline of other organs directly affect gut microbiota?
- How does the consumption of medicines, prescription medications, nutraceuticals, vitamins, and supplements affect the gut microbiota over the lifetime?
- How do various medical conditions & diseases affect the microbiome?
- Does drug use (prescription or recreational) affect gut microbiota?
Questions like these can be very difficult to answer and require many different studies to be conducted to even begin to ponder understandings.
While research on gut microbiota has become increasingly common and well-funded in recent years, new data from original research is still lacking when it comes to working towards more concrete solutions to conditions such as MDD.
Gut Microbiota in Different Age Groups
One area of research that has shown some early interesting findings is looking at the diversity of gut microbiota in people of different ages. Looking at the levels of different organisms in the gut microbiota may help us reveal what a ‘healthy’ gut microbiome looks like in an aging person.
Studies so far, however, have been inconclusive, though. This may be due, in part, to not having enough range of age groups or in-depth knowledge of peoples’ mental health status. Many people in studies are asked questions about their physical health, but not their mental health. In addition, early changes in mental health can be very difficult to detect. People with noticeable levels of cognitive decline can be determined in clinical studies, but should people with noticeable levels of cognitive decline be included with the cognitively healthy group or the unhealthy group? Answers to a question like this could help researchers discover the connection between gut microbiota and cognitive function.
Research into the specific effects probiotics and other nutraceuticals can have on the aging gut microbiome is an important area of study. While research has been conducted on the general population, no conclusive evidence for nutraceutical supplementation and cognitive function has yet been found.
Research at Biofortis
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