Researchers may have discovered a secret behind Japanese people’s long life expectancy, in their gut microbiome

A research group led by Professor Masahira Hattori (Faculty of Science and Engineering: Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering) and Tokyo University Graduate School of Frontier Sciences doctoral student Suguru Nishijima conducted a comparative analysis between individuals from twelve countries and revealed special characteristics of Japanese people’s gut microbiomes.

The research group conducted a large-scale metagenome analysis of the gut microbiomes of 106 Japanese individuals and discovered approximately five million genes in Japanese gut microbiomes and over twelve million overall. Based on their analysis, the group concluded that the gut microbiomes of individuals from the same country share greater similarities than those of individuals from different countries, proving that gut microbiomes of individuals from each country have distinct characteristics. Researchers found that the composition of the Japanese gut microbiome contains greater Actinobacteria, in particular Bifidobacterium. They also found that while there are a great number of carbohydrate metabolism microbial functions, there are few related to replication, repair, and cell motility. Analysis also showed that hydrogen primarily used for methane creation in individuals from other countries is primarily used for acetic acid creation in Japanese individuals. The enzyme responsible for breaking down polysaccharides in nori and wakame (edible seaweed) were found in approximately 90% of Japanese individuals as opposed to 15% and under of individuals from other countries. These revelations suggest that the beneficial traits of Japanese people’s gut microbiomes may be one of the reasons why the Japanese boast the world’s longest life expectancy.

This research is the first of its kind to shed light on group similarities of gut microbiomes and the distinct traits of Japanese gut microbiomes. Many expect this research to lead to developments in the treatment and prevention of gut microbiome related medical conditions and improvements in overall health.

This research was published in science journal DNA Research.
The gut microbiome of healthy Japanese and its microbial and functional uniqueness

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