Longer and healthier living through bacteria!

Actu GP Espérance de vie

Will we be able to slow down the effects of aging someday? There is now hope, according to the results of a study that say it’s just a matter of restoring our intestinal flora.


Although we want to increase our lifespans, we wish to do so and remain in good health. Many studies have shown that certain genes and other small molecules are associated with life expectancy. However, extending life expectancy is not synonymous with extending healthspan. On the contrary, it seems that certain mutations that extend lifespan are associated with more frail health. Can these mechanisms, which seem to work together, act independently? And do they involve the microbiota? We know that the microbiota contributes to a body’s health, in particular by improving its immune defense system and protecting it against pathogens. It is reasonable to suppose that aging, by disrupting this ecosystem, would contribute to the deterioration of health.

An American team was interested in certain small molecules (indole and its derivatives), secreted by bacteria of the intestinal flora, that play a role in controlling healthspan. Indole may be involved in protecting the host against infection. In order to study the relationship between the microbiota and healthspan, researchers fed elderly animals (worms, flies, and mice) bacteria that do and do not produce indole. Then they measured several parameters that indicate youth and good health (motility, lack of paralysis, resistance to stress factors). The animals that received an indole supplement had increased healthspans, including an improvement in their ability to tolerate certain stresses.

So, what about in humans? It’s reasonable to expect the same outcome - that aging leads to reduced indole production. As a result, the authors suggest that a diet rich in indole-containing vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc.), a supplement of indole-producing bacteria, via probiotics, prebiotics, or fecal transplant, or the direct administration of indole may be an effective method of counteracting the effects of age-related dysbiosis and slowing the effects of aging.


Sonowal, Swimm et al. Indoles from commensal bacteria extend healthspan. Pnas, published online, August 21, 2017.