The colonic microbiota undergoes certain age related changes that may affect health. For example, above the age of 55–65 y, populations of bifidobacteria are known to decrease markedly. Bifidobacteria are known inhibitors of pathogenic microbes and a decrease in their activities may increase susceptibility to infections. There is therefore interest in trying to reverse their decline in aged persons. As the gut microbiota responds to dietary intervention, both probiotics and prebiotics have been tested in this regard. Probiotics are live microbes in the diet, whereas prebiotics are fermentable ingredients that specifically target components of the indigenous microbiota seen to be beneficial. We have published a recent paper demonstrating that prebiotic galactooligosaccharides can exert power effects upon bifidobacteria in the gut flora of elderly persons (both in vivo and in vitro). This addendum summarizes research that led up to this study and discusses the possible impact of prebiotics in impacting upon the gut health of aged persons.
GE Walton, den Heuvel EG van, MH Kosters, RA Rastall, KM Tuohy, GR Gibson. A randomised crossover study investigating the effects of galacto-oligosaccharides on the faecal microbiota in men and women over 50 years of age. Br J Nutr 2012; 107: 1466- 75.
PMID: 21910949 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114511004697