Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction and the gut microbiome

Prebiotics, such as galactooligosaccharides (GOS), support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which has been demonstrated in studies in younger adult populations (Bouhnik et al., 1997; Tuohy et al., 2001). However, with ageing, there comes many physiological changes as well as changes in gut microbiome composition. These changes are characterised by declines in beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria, and increases in less beneficial bacteria, such as Clostridia, which have potentially pathogenic properties (Gavani et al., 2001; Hopkins et al., 2002; Hopkins and Macfarlane., 2002). Older populations also show a marked decline in immune function, referred to as immunosenescence, of which can be influenced by interactions between bacteria residing in the gut and the mucosal immune system (Walrath et al., 2020). As prebiotics can contribute to modulation of the gut microbiome, their effect on beneficial bacteria could support the gut microbiome’s ability to influence immune function and immunomodulatory capacity in older adult populations (Toward et al., 2012).

Research into the potential for prebiotics to influence immunity is much sparser than that of probiotics, which currently suggests various strains of Bifidobacteria, and Lactobacilli have immunostimulatory properties (Meydani and Ha., 2000; Blum et al., 2002). However, prebiotics have been shown to stimulate the growth of these beneficial microbes and thus can lead to an increased production of metabolites, such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), known to be beneficial to health (Pujari and Banerjee., 2020). SCFAs can interact with the immune cells residing in the gut and lead to positive changes such as improved gut barrier integrity and the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines (Pujari and Banerjee., 2020). Such effects have been observed in vitro, but also in some clinical studies (Pujari and Banerjee., 2020; Toward et al., 2012). In this Research Spotlight, we want to highlight one such study that looked at the effect of Bimuno® GOS on immune function and gut microbiome composition in older adult populations.

Bimuno® GOS and Immunity

In 2008, Vulevic and colleagues conducted a randomised, placebo controlled, crossover study looking at the effects of Bimuno® GOS on the faecal microbiome profiles and immune function of healthy elderly volunteers (Vulevic et al., 2008). Forty-four free-living, elderly volunteers were recruited and then randomly assigned to two groups. One group were given a placebo (maltodextrin), while the other group were given Bimuno® GOS. Participants consumed their assigned intervention for 10-weeks, which was then followed by a 4-week was out period, before switching to the other treatment for the final 10-weeks. Results showed Bimuno® GOS had a significant effect on all bacteria groups measured when compared with baseline and the placebo group following 5-weeks of ingestion. Higher numbers of Bifidobacterium spp, Lactobacillus-enterococcus spp and the C. coccoides-E rectale group were reported as well lower numbers of less beneficial bacteria such as Bacteroides spp., C. histolyticum group, E. coli, and Desulfovibrio spp. A significant positive effect was also found regarding the effect of Bimuno® GOS on the immune response, with evidence showing improvements in natural killer (NK) cell activity and phagocytosis, as well as an increased secretion of anti-inflammatory cytokines. These results were further enhanced after the full 10-week period. Phagocytosis is the process by which potential pathogens are engulfed by phagocytes and NK cells are a type of lymphocyte responsible for destroying infected cells, both of which are important for the functioning of the immune system and an effective immune response (Del Zotto et al., 2017;Rosales, and Uribe-Querol., 2017). Therefore, this research concludes that dietary interventions that modulate the gut microbiome could be a viable option for enhancement of the immune system.

Read the full open access paper here:

Vulevic, J., Drakoularakou, A., Yaqoob, P., Tzortzis, G. and Gibson, G. (2008). Modulation of the fecal microflora profile and immune function by a novel trans-galactooligosaccharide mixture (B-GOS) in healthy elderly volunteers. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 88(5), pp.1438–1446. Available at:https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(23)23376-6/fulltext.


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