Prebiotic supplementation in frail older people affects specific gut microbiota taxa but not global diversity.Microbiome 2019; 7(1):39M
There are complex interactions between aging, frailty, diet, and the gut microbiota; modulation of the gut microbiota by diet could lead to healthier aging. The purpose of this study was to test the effect of diets differing in sugar, fat, and fiber content upon the gut microbiota of mice humanized with microbiota from healthy or frail older people. We also performed a 6-month dietary fiber supplementation in three human cohorts representing three distinct life-stages.
Mice were colonized with human microbiota and then underwent an 8-week dietary intervention with either a high-fiber/low-fat diet typical of elderly community dwellers or a low-fiber/high-fat diet typical of long-stay residential care subjects. A cross-over design was used where the diets were switched after 4 weeks to the other diet type to identify responsive taxa and innate immunity changes. In the human intervention, the subjects supplemented their normal diet with a mix of five prebiotics (wheat dextrin, resistant starch, polydextrose, soluble corn fiber, and galactooligo-saccharide) at 10 g/day combined total, for healthy subjects and 20 g/day for frail subjects, or placebo (10 g/day maltodextrin) for 26 weeks. The gut microbiota was profiled and immune responses were assayed by T cell markers in mice, and serum cytokines in humans.
Humanized mice maintained gut microbiota types reflecting the respective healthy or frail human donor. Changes in abundance of specific taxa occurred with the diet switch. In mice with the community type microbiota, the observed differences reflected compositions previously associated with higher frailty. The dominance of Prevotella present initially in community inoculated mice was replaced by Bacteroides, Alistipes, and Oscillibacter. Frail type microbiota showed a differential effect on innate immune markers in both conventional and germ-free mice, but a moderate number of taxonomic changes occurring upon diet switch with an increase in abundance of Parabacteroides, Blautia, Clostridium cluster IV, and Phascolarctobacterium. In the human intervention, prebiotic supplementation did not drive any global changes in alpha- or beta-diversity, but the abundance of certain bacterial taxa, particularly Ruminococcaceae (Clostridium cluster IV), Parabacteroides, Phascolarctobacterium, increased, and levels of the chemokine CXCL11 were significantly lower in the frail elderly group, but increased during the wash-out period.
Switching to a nutritionally poorer diet has a profound effect on the microbiota in mouse models, with changes in the gut microbiota from healthy donors reflecting previously observed differences between elderly frail and non-frail individuals. However, the frailty-associated gut microbiota did not reciprocally switch to a younger healthy-subject like state, and supplementation with prebiotics was associated with fewer detected effects in humans than diet adjustment in animal models.