A combination of an herbal supplement used for thousands of years in the Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine, along with a probiotic, may hold the key to a longer life, according to a new study conducted by biologists at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. The reason may lie in what scientists call the “gut-brain axis,” the communication channel between the brain and the microorganisms that live in the digestive tract of every living animal.
“In the past few years, studies have shown the gut-brain axis to be involved in neuropathological changes and a variety of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, neurodegeneration and even depression,” wrote Science Daily, in a summary of the McGill study, which was published on May 30.
But what researchers have not often achieved is a way to treat the gut-dwelling microbes in a way that can prevent diseases and alleviate the harmful effects of getting older. The new study, led by McGill Biomedical Engineering Professor Satya Prakash, found a way to treat the gut microbes in drosophila, better known as fruit flies, that caused the insects to live up to 60 percent longer than those that were not treated with the new, experimental therapy. The fruit flies who received the Ayurvedic-probiotic combination lived as long as 66 days. The fruit flies who were fed a diet without the herbal and probiotic treatment lived no longer than 40 days, according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.
But what does a study done on fruit flies — the annoying bugs that seem to appear out of nowhere when bananas get left out on the counter too long — have to do with human longevity? According to information provided by the University of North Carolina, the flies actually have about 75 percent of the same disease-related genes found in humans. For that reason, drosophila have been used in genetic research for at least a century, and the study provides a good indicator of how humans will respond to the new treatment.
The treatment fed to the fruit flies in the study consisted of a probiotic supplement consisting of three strains — Lactobacillus plantarum NCIMB 8826, Lactobacillus fermentum NCIMB 5221, and Bifidobacteria longum spp. infantis — combined with the herbal Ayurvedic supplement Triphala. According to the Chopra Center, the supplement — whose name means “three fruits” — consists of the fruits amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki. Triphala, which today is commercially available, has traditionally been used to treat mild intestinal disorders, such as constipation.
“At the onset of this study, we were hopeful that combining Triphala with probiotics would be at least a little better than their individual components in terms of physiological benefit, but we did not imagine how successful this formulation would be,” Susan Westfall, one of the researchers who authored the study, told Science Daily.
The researchers pointed out that humans who try the new treatment should not expect to increase their lifespans by a full 60 percent, “but our results definitely suggest that a diet specifically incorporating Triphala along with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life,” Prakash said.
The authors of the study have started a commercial company and have begun the process of filing patents for their new longevity formula.