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Diet and lifestyle

Computers will help us to be healthier as we age

One hundred years. That is how old you are predicted to become if you were born in about 2000 and have a relatively healthy and active lifestyle. The prospect of a longer life has intensified research on healthy ageing. New research finds that computers can serve as a tool to help people to eat the food that precisely fits our genes.

“You are what you eat” is no longer just a saying but has become a scientific fact. How diet influences the bacteria in our gut is especially attracting huge interest at present. The latest research suggests that the composition of “good” and “bad” bacteria can directly affect how old we become and especially our quality of life as we age.

The bacterial flora in the human gut changes naturally as we get older. The composition varies enormously in the first 2–3 years of life but becomes more stable during childhood and remains that way until old age. As people’s physical condition changes, the composition of the gut bacteria also changes and the number of useful bacteria such as bifidobacteria declines.

Nevertheless, the connections between diet, bacteria and their host humans have not yet been researched, and this is where computers can play a role. Computer modelling enables researchers to understand and predict the dynamics of the very complex metabolic processes in the human gut.

Researchers think that this modelling will enable them in the future to predict the variation in gut bacteria that occurs with age and be able to design more effective prevention and treatment. Research also shows that a plant-based diet supplemented with specific microorganisms (probiotics) may increase the number of useful bacteria species, thereby preventing gut and other metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Human gut microbiota and healthy aging: recent developments and future prospective” has been published in the newest issue of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. One main author is Jens Nielsen, Scientific Director, Section for Yeast Cell Factories, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark; and Professor, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden.