Gastrointestinal Microbiota and Their Contribution to Healthy Aging

Anna Maria Mello, Giulia Paroni, Julia Daragjati, Alberto Pilotto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Studies on populations at different ages have shown that after birth, the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota composition keeps evolving, and this seems to occur especially in old age. Significant changes in GI microbiota composition in older subjects have been reported in relation to diet, drug use and the settings where the older subjects are living, that is, in community nursing homes or in a hospital. Moreover, changes in microbiota composition in the old age have been related to immunosenescence and inflammatory processes that are pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the pathways of frailty. Frailty is an age-related condition of increased vulnerability to stresses due to the impairment in multiple inter-related physiologic systems that are associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes, such as falls, delirium, institutionalization, hospitalization and death. Preliminary data suggest that changes in microbiota composition may contribute to the variations in the biological, clinical, functional and psycho-social domains that occur in the frail older subjects. Multidimensional evaluation tools based on a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) have demonstrated to be useful in identifying and measuring the severity of frailty in older subjects. Thus, a CGA approach should be used more widely in clinical practice to evaluate the multidimensional effects potentially related to GI microbiota composition of the older subjects. Probiotics have been shown to be effective in restoring the microbiota changes of older subjects, promoting different aspects of health in elderly people as improving immune function and reducing inflammation. Whether modulation of GI microbiota composition, with multi-targeted interventions, could have an effect on the prevention of frailty remains to be further investigated in the perspective of improving the health status of frail 'high risk' older individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-201
Number of pages8
JournalDigestive Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Aging
  • Frailty
  • Microbiota
  • Multidimensional prognostic index
  • Probiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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