The potential for the gut microbiota to affect health has a particular relevance for older individuals. This is because the microbiota may modulate aging-related changes in innate immunity, sarcopaenia, and cognitive function, all of which are elements of frailty. Both cell culture–dependent and –independent studies show that the gut microbiota of older people differs from that of younger adults. There is no chronological threshold or age at which the composition of the microbiota suddenly alters; rather, changes occur gradually with time. Our detailed analyses have separated the microbiota into groups associated with age, long-term residential care, habitual diet, and degree of retention of a core microbiome. We are beginning to understand how these groups change with aging and how they relate to clinical phenotypes. These data provide a framework for analyzing microbiota-health associations, distinguishing correlation from causation, identifying microbiota interaction with physiological aging processes, and developing microbiota-based health surveillance for older adults.

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References and Notes

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Volume 350 | Issue 6265
4 December 2015

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Published in print: 4 December 2015


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Work in the I.B.J. and P.W.O.T. laboratories is funded by awards from Science Foundation Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine of the government of Ireland and by General Mills International and the Kerry Group, who had no influence on the content of this review.



Paul W. O’Toole* [email protected]
School of Microbiology and APC Microbiome Institute, University College Cork, Cork T12 Y337, Ireland.
Ian B. Jeffery
School of Microbiology and APC Microbiome Institute, University College Cork, Cork T12 Y337, Ireland.


*Corresponding author. E-mail: [email protected]

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