Gut microbiome association with brain imaging markers, APOE genotype, calcium and vegetable intakes, and obesity in healthy aging adults

Tyler C. Hammond, Stefan J. Green, Yael Jacobs, George E. Chlipala, Xin Xing, Sally Heil, Anna Chen, Chetan Aware, Abeoseh Flemister, Arnold Stromberg, Priti Balchandani, Ai Ling Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Advanced age is a significant factor in changes to brain physiology and cognitive functions. Recent research has highlighted the critical role of the gut microbiome in modulating brain functions during aging, which can be influenced by various factors such as apolipoprotein E (APOE) genetic variance, body mass index (BMI), diabetes, and dietary intake. However, the associations between the gut microbiome and these factors, as well as brain structural, vascular, and metabolic imaging markers, have not been well explored. Methods: We recruited 30 community dwelling older adults between age 55-85 in Kentucky. We collected the medical history from the electronic health record as well as the Dietary Screener Questionnaire. We performed APOE genotyping with an oral swab, gut microbiome analysis using metagenomics sequencing, and brain structural, vascular, and metabolic imaging using MRI. Results: Individuals with APOE e2 and APOE e4 genotypes had distinct microbiota composition, and higher level of pro-inflammatory microbiota were associated higher BMI and diabetes. In contrast, calcium- and vegetable-rich diets were associated with microbiota that produced short chain fatty acids leading to an anti-inflammatory state. We also found that important gut microbial butyrate producers were correlated with the volume of the thalamus and corpus callosum, which are regions of the brain responsible for relaying and processing information. Additionally, putative proinflammatory species were negatively correlated with GABA production, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Furthermore, we observed that the relative abundance of bacteria from the family Eggerthellaceae, equol producers, was correlated with white matter integrity in tracts connecting the brain regions related to language, memory, and learning. Discussion: These findings highlight the importance of gut microbiome association with brain health in aging population and could have important implications aimed at optimizing healthy brain aging through precision prebiotic, probiotic or dietary interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1227203
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2023


  • APOE
  • BMI
  • MRI
  • brain metabolism
  • calcium intake
  • diabetes
  • healthy aging
  • microbiome


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