Within twenty years Europe will face a situation where the largest population cohort will be those over the age of 65. Can food supplementations slow down, and (partially) compensate for the negative consequences associated with getting older?
The recent economic problems of the welfare system, in both the Eastern and Western societies, have boosted the interest in “enhancing” procedures and activities that will make welfare societally more affordable. Moreover, the ideological turn towards individualism in many societies provides a natural breeding ground for the public interest in procedures and activities that help to express and to further develop individual needs and interests. These issues are particularly relevant when people are getting older, when social cognition, crucial factor for successful aging and vitality, declines.
What can elderly people do to preserve their emotional and social well-being?
To exactly answer this question, a JPI "A Healthy Diet for A Healthy Life" / Joint Transnational grant (1.000.000 Euro) has been awarded to interdisciplinary scientists. Peter Kirsch (Central Institute of Mental Health, Germany), Martin Reuter (University of Bonn, Germany), Ana Rodríguez Moratinos (University of Extremadura, Spain) and myself will investigate whether the administration of probiotics and tryptophan may slow down social cognitive decline in aging.
Using a multidisciplinary and translational approach, my colleagues and I will be the first to examine how probiotics and tryptophan can enhance social and affective cognition in aging. Among others, for the first time ever, we will use epigenetics (changes in gene expression triggered by the environment) to study and understand the mechanisms underlying the interactions between brain, nutritional intervention, and social behavior. If our project will be successful, we will be able to develop proof-of-principle regarding personalized food programs that are tailored to individual needs.