The secret to living better for longer lies in one's gut microbiota, according to Dr Bejit Ideas, the president of the Japanese Society of Anti-Ageing Nutrition (JAAN).
He was speaking on Wednesday at the very first Healthy Ageing APAC Summit, organised by NutraIngredients-Asia and FoodNavigator Asia in Singapore.
He led his presentation with a study the JAAN had conducted on microbiota evolution in Japanese centenarians to discover their secret to longevity, saying: "The aim of the project was to find out their secret and reverse-engineer it.
"There were many conflicting factors, but it all boiled down to their microbiome. Good gut microbiota improved their ability to keep inflammation levels low."
However, he added: "The microbiota is the source of the power, but what makes things happen are metabolites. It's thanks to metabolites that seniors can lower their inflammation levels."
He said that while generally healthy elderly women below the age of 100 and healthy female centenarians both had low chronic inflammation, the former had significantly lower mitochondria metabolism than the latter.
He explained that a microbiome-based metabolite system acts quickly and effectively on the host: high-fibre nutrition consumed by the host undergoes acid digestion in the stomach, and food particles not digested in the upper intestinal tract are fermented by endogenous bacteria to produce metabolites such as acetate and butyrate.
Epithelial cells then absorb the secondary metabolites produced in the intestine, allowing them to enter the bloodstream and thus, to be distributed throughout the body. These metabolites scavenge free radicals and modulate gene expression, and display mitochondrial biogenesis activity.
Ideas said healthy metabolites — especially centenarian metabolites — had more positive effects on the host, and a "wide range of utilisation". This includes protective effects on the liver, brain and skin, as well as anti-diabetes and anti-sarcopenia action, and fertility support.
The positive effects of centenarian metabolites have led the JAAN to look at how to reproduce the gut of healthy centenarian women in other people. The organisation has been experimenting with biomimetic fermentation technology, using bacteria that produce the same metabolites as centenarian metabolites.
The fermentation process uses advanced technology to replicate the human microbiota cycle, and takes place over five days at 37℃ in 9-litre fermenters, in conditions similar to human digestion.
According to Ideas, the process is safe, and the metabolites produced are easily recognised by the body.
He also employed an unusual chicken-and-egg analogy to describe metabolites: "You can say that chickens in Singapore are different from chickens in Malaysia, which are different from chickens in England. But their eggs are the same, and humans need high quality eggs.
"Metabolites are the eggs of the microbiota. The way we use them is where I think we need to move our vision when it comes to helping people age well. Healthy ageing is the most luxurious thing in human life. We want to bring dignity and richness to people's lives by helping them to age better."