A study of diet and health in the elderly; the gut microbiota as a source of bioactive agents

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Power, Susan Eleanor
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University College Cork
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The global proportion of older persons is increasing rapidly. Diet and the intestinal microbiota independently and jointly contribute to health in the elderly. The habitual dietary patterns and functional microbiota components of elderly subjects were investigated in order to identify specific effector mechanisms. A study of the dietary intake of Irish community-dwelling elderly subjects showed that the consumption of foods high in fat and/or sugar was excessive, while consumption of dairy foods was inadequate. Elderly females typically had a more nutrient- dense diet than males and a considerable proportion of subjects, particularly males, had inadequate intakes of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, folate, zinc and vitamin C. The association between dietary patterns, glycaemic index and cognitive function was also investigated. Elderly subjects consuming ‘prudent’ dietary patterns had better cognitive function compared to those consuming ‘Western’ dietary patterns. Furthermore, fully-adjusted regression models revealed that a high glycaemic diet was associated with poor cognitive function, demonstrating a new link between nutrition and cognition. An extensive screening study of the elderly faecal-derived microbiota was also undertaken to examine the prevalence of antimicrobial production by intestinal bacteria. A number of previously characterised bacteriocins were isolated (gassericin T, ABP-118, mutacin II, enterocin L-50 and enterocin P) in this study. Interestingly, a Lactobacillus crispatus strain was found to produce a potentially novel antimicrobial compound. Full genome sequencing of this strain revealed the presence of three loci which exhibited varying degrees of homology with the genes responsible for helveticin J production in Lb. helveticus. An additional study comparing the immunomodulatory capacity of ‘viable’ and ‘non-viable’ Bifidobacterium strains found that Bifidobacterium-fermented milks (BFMs) containing ‘non-viable’ cells could stimulate levels of IL-10 and TNF-α in a manner similar to those stimulated by BFMs containing ‘viable’ cells in vitro.
Diet , Microbiota , Elderly , Bacteriocin
Power, S. E. 2013. A study of diet and health in the elderly; the gut microbiota as a source of bioactive agents. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.