Background: Gastrointestinal (GI) health is an important aspect of general health. Gastrointestinal symptoms are of specific importance for the elderly, an increasing group globally. Hence, promoting the elderly’s health and especially gastrointestinal health is important. Gut microbiota can influence gastrointestinal health by modulation of the immune system and the gut–brain axis. Diverse gut microbiota have been shown to be beneficial; however, for the elderly, the gut microbiota is often less diverse. Nutrition and physical activity, in particular, are two components that have been suggested to influence composition or diversity. Materials and Methods: In this study, we compared gut microbiota between two groups of elderly individuals: community-dwelling older adults and physically active senior orienteering athletes, where the latter group has less gastrointestinal symptoms and a reported better well-being. With this approach, we explored if certain gut microbiota were related to healthy ageing. The participant data and faecal samples were collected from these two groups and the microbiota was whole-genome sequenced and taxonomically classified with MetaPhlAn. Results: The physically active senior orienteers had a more homogeneous microbiota within the group and a higher abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii
compared to the community-dwelling older adults. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii
has previously shown to have beneficial properties. Senior orienteers also had a lower abundance of Parasutterella excrementihominis
unclassified, which have been associated with impaired GI health. We could not observe any difference between the groups in terms of Shannon diversity index. Interestingly, a subgroup of community-dwelling older adults showed an atypical microbiota profile as well as the parameters for gastrointestinal symptoms and well-being closer to senior orienteers. Conclusions: Our results suggest specific composition characteristics of healthy microbiota in the elderly, and show that certain components of nutrition as well as psychological distress are not as tightly connected with composition or diversity variation in faecal microbiota samples.
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