We’re all trying to live as long as possible, but reaching the age of 100 still seems to be easier for some than others. Now, researchers believe they have uncovered the reasons why.
Average life expectancy in Australia sits at 83 years for males and females at birth combined – the sixth highest rate in the world – and continues to rise steadily. Yet, reaching 100 still seems a bit of stretch for most of us.
However, most people can think of an individual or family they know of who seem to breeze right through to 100, not experiencing any major medical hurdles or having to make adjustments to their lifestyle.
It seems some people are just genetically predisposed to reaching 100. But what is it about them that facilitates this long life? How do their bodies differ from the rest of ours?
This is the question a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen set out to answer in a recent study published in the journal Nature Microbiology.
The study looked at a sample of 176 healthy Japanese citizens who had reached age 100 and found that the specific combination of intestinal bacteria and bacterial viruses of these people was unique and quite different from the average person.
Dr Joachim Johansen, lead author of the study, says the research showed the gut flora of these centenarians offered better protection against disease over the average person.
“We are always eager to find out why some people live extremely long lives,” he says.
“Previous research has shown that the intestinal bacteria of old Japanese citizens produce brand new molecules that make them resistant to pathogenic – that is, disease-promoting – microorganisms.
“And if their intestines are better protected against infection, well, then that is probably one of the things that cause them to live longer than others.”
The study shows that specific viruses in the intestines can have a beneficial effect on the intestinal flora and thus on your health.
The results also highlight how important it is to have a diverse gut microbiome made up of many different bacteria.
“We found great biological diversity in both bacteria and bacterial viruses in the centenarians,” Dr Johansen says.
“High microbial diversity is usually associated with a healthy gut microbiome. And we expect people with a healthy gut microbiome to be better protected against ageing related diseases.”
The new knowledge on intestinal bacteria may help science to understand how we should optimise the bacteria found in the human body to protect it against disease in future.
For example, this approach could be used to map the intestinal flora of centenarians, which could then potentially be used as a guide for those looking to improve their own life expectancy.
Has anyone in your family lived to 100? How varied would you say is your diet? Let us know in the comments section below.
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