21st October 2021
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It is amazing how the same microorganisms we avoid everyday are living in us—in their thousands and millions. Bacteria, fungi, viruses and single-celled animals live in the human gut and form the gut microbiota. Surprisingly. scientists have found that these gut microbiota play important roles in our bodies. For example, these organisms help to break down plant cellulose which is usually hard for the body to digest. The lack of it has also been associated with diseases such as Crohn’s disease. Most importantly, gut microbiota has been found to have an effect on behavior and cognition particularly on the elderly. 

As people age, there is a decline in their immunity and the effectiveness of cell function. Sadly, there is often a decline in their brain functions as Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related brain diseases set in. A group of scientists at the University College, Cork carried out three different studies on the relationship between gut microbiota, diet and aging and struck gold in their latest study. They appeared to have established a link showing how a healthy gut microbiota could reduce the effects of aging on the brain. These scientists transplanted the faecal microbiome of a young healthy mouse to an old one and discovered the older mouse to be better in cognition and thinking after the transplant. 

Microbiodata _Guts

However, the idea of transplanting faecal microbiota has not be confirmed to be feasible in humans. These scientists therefore suggest that there should be an increased focus on microbiota-targeted diet and  bacteria-based treatments that promote optimum gut health and immunity in order to keep the brain young and healthy.  In the past, the Russian Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist, Elie Metchnikoff discovered that Eastern Europeans lived longer because they ate a lot of fermented foods containing lactic acid bacteria. The scientists therefore suggested that having the right diet does not only keep us healthy but might be the key to keeping our brains from aging. The right diet includes fermented foods rich in probiotics that can enrich the gut with millions of these healthy microorganisms. Examples of fermented foods are Pap popularly known as Ogi or Akamu in Nigeria, kwunu, tuwo, fura etc. Foreign fermented foods are kefir, yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut etc.

Despite the evidence from these scientists, much work is still needed to correctly establish the link between gut bacteria and overall human health. Eating the right diet never hurts anyone. So eat away especially fermented foods!

Ruth Torty

Ruth Torty is a biochemist, freelance health and biotechnology content writer. She writes to shed light on health issues, rare diseases and science research in Nigeria. She is also a creative writer and has published on different literary sites including Spillwords and Nnoko Stories. She is passionate about genomics and its role in healthcare.