Introduction

With the significant progress in medical science and health care, the average life expectancy has increased by nearly three decades over the last century (1). The old (>65 years) and the "oldest" (> 85 years) age groups are the fastest growing subpopulation in the world, especially in industrialized societies referred to as "aged societies." World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate there are currently about 580 million people in the world aged 60 or older, and this figure is expected to rise to over a billion within the next 20 years (2).

It has been well known that many physiological functions, such as immunity and gut function, in humans usually decline progressively with age after approximately the 30th birthday (1). The elderly are an increased-risk population with high rates of morbidity and mortality due to their susceptibility to degenerative and infectious diseases. A major consequence of people living longer is an increased incidence in health problems. In fact, industrial societies are now suffering from a sharp increase in medical costs to the age-related infectious and autoimmune diseases, malignancies, allergies, and digestive problems. Therefore, effective measures to redress the age-related decline (or imbalance) in physiological function should be much sought.

The intestinal microbiota mediates many crucial events towards the protection or alteration of health. This chapter summarizes the current knowledge and findings about the intestinal microbiota in the elderly, although a limited but growing body of literature on this subject is available.

Staying Young

Staying Young

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