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Summary

Hundred years ago Metchnikoff associated human health and particularly healthy ageing with a specific type of gut microbiota. Classical culture methods associated a decrease in bifidobacteria and an increase in enterobacteria with ageing. Modern molecular methods blurred this simple picture and documented a substantial inter-individual variability for the gut microbiome even when stratifying the elderly subjects according to health status. Nutritional interventions with resistant starch showed consistent gut microbiota changes across studies from different geographical areas and prebiotic supplementation induced a 10-fold increase in gut bifidobacteria. However, in the ELDERMET study, microbiota changes do not precede, but follow the changes in health status of elderly subjects possibly as a consequence of diet changes.