The role of the microbiota in sedentary life style disorders and ageing: Lessons from the animal kingdom

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A review article titled “The role of the microbiota in sedentary life style disorders and ageing: Lessons from the animal kingdom“ was originally published in the Journal of Internal Medicine on January 19th, 2020.  Free full text is available here.


A paradox of so‐called developed countries is that, as the major historical causes of human mortality are eliminated or mitigated by medical progress, life‐style related diseases have become major killers. Furthermore, as life‐span is extended by the combined effects of modern medicine, health‐span is struggling to keep apace because of the burden of non‐communicable diseases linked to diet and sedentary life‐style. The gut microbiome is now recognized as a plastic environmental risk factor for many of these diseases, the microbiome being defined as the complex community of co‐evolved commensal microbes that breaks down components of a complex diet, modulates innate immunity, and produces signalling molecules and metabolites that can impact on diverse regulatory systems in mammals. Aspects of the so‐called “Western” life‐style linked to disease risk such as energy dense diet and antibiotic treatment are known to affect the composition and function of the microbiome. Here we review the detailed mechanisms whereby the gut microbiome may modulate risk of diseases linked to sedentary life‐style, and ageing related health loss. We focus on the comparative value of natural animal models such as hibernation for studying metabolic regulation, and the challenge of extrapolating from animal models to processes that occur in human ageing.

Authors and affiliations

P.W. O’Toole1 and P.G. Shiels2

  1. School of Microbiology, APC Microbiome Ireland, University College Cork, Ireland
  2. Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

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