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Age-dependent changes in GI physiology and microbiota: time to reconsider?
  1. Ran An1,
  2. Ellen Wilms2,
  3. Ad A M Masclee2,
  4. Hauke Smidt1,
  5. Erwin G Zoetendal1,
  6. Daisy Jonkers2
  1. 1 Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Division Gastroenterology-Hepatology, NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Erwin G Zoetendal, Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, 6708 WE, The Netherlands; erwin.zoetendal{at}


Our life expectancy is increasing, leading to a rise in the ageing population. Ageing is associated with a decline in physiological function and adaptive capacity. Altered GI physiology can affect the amount and types of nutrients digested and absorbed as well as impact the intestinal microbiota. The intestinal microbiota is considered a key player in our health, and a variety of studies have reported that microbiota composition is changing during ageing. Since ageing is associated with a decline in GI function and adaptive capacity, it is crucial to obtain insights into this decline and how this is related to the intestinal microbiota in the elderly. Hence, in this review we focus on age-related changes in GI physiology and function, changes of the intestinal microbiota with ageing and frailty, how these are associated and how intestinal microbiota-targeted interventions may counteract these changes.

  • ageing
  • gastrointestinal physiology
  • intestinal bacteria

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  • EGZ and DJ contributed equally.

  • RA and EW contributed equally.

  • Contributors All authors were involved in and contributed to this manuscript, and have approved for the final submission.

  • Funding This work was performed in the public-private partnership ’CarboKinetics' coordinated by the Carbohydrate Competence Center (CCC), as part of the NWO-CCC Partnership Programme. CarboKinetics is financed by participating industrial partners Agrifirm Innovation Center BV, Cooperatie AVEBE UA, DSM Food Specialties BV, FrieslandCampina Nederland BV, Nutrition Sciences NV, VanDrie Holding NV and Sensus BV and allowances [ALWCC.2015.3] of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not requried.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.