Health concern identified

The microflora of those in long-term care showed less diversity and low vigour

I love riding my bike to work as it gives me a chance to listen to Nature magazine podcasts. Nature is the foremost scientific research periodical in the world and the podcasts have the scientists describe their work in language a layman can understand.

This morning I heard a report that may have huge ramifications on a population like that is found in Penticton.

One of the most important determinants of a healthy body is the microflora that lives in our guts. This biota helps digest and incorporate nutrients as well as control disease.

An extensive study in Britain determined that the microflora in young people was different than that of older people. Further investigation showed a large difference in microflora between older people living in the general community and those living in long-term care homes.

The microflora of those older people living in the community had diversity in speciation and had large healthy populations. The microflora of those in long-term care showed less diversity and low vigour. This microflora situation was consistent with that which gives rise to frailty and inflammation.

This shocked the researchers as it would suggest that the food offered in care facilities was substandard. This was not the case as the facilities had a lot of healthy food available. The problem was the residents would not eat the healthy foods. One reason given is the healthier foods were sometimes harder to chew that the processed options.

The researchers suggest that there are some things care homes could do as well as the physicians to control frailty and inflammation in these folks. Care homes could offer more counselling on the benefits of whole foods and offer easier-to-chew forms of the good food. Dieticians could try to match the diet eaten before entering the care facility to keep the microflora healthy.

They suggest that physicians take samples of microflora of patients before they enter care facilities and this would be a baseline indicator in case health problems begin to appear.

The problem with cutting-edge research is that it often takes years to be accessed by the general public. Hopefully our facilities will go to the leading edge and encourage their residents to keep their micro flora healthy today.

Brian Hughes