Indole, an organic chemical compound that’s found in our gut and contributes to the smell of poop, increases the healthy lifespan of worms, flies, and mice, according to new research. Scientists say this likely applies to humans as well, and that this stinky substance could eventually be used to delay age-related diseases.
New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesshows that indole compounds, which are produced by bacteria in the gut, extends the healthy lifespan of a diverse set of organisms, including nematode worms, fruit flies, and mice. In tests, animals who were exposed to the compound remained free of age-related health complications over a greater fraction of healthy lifespan than those animals who weren’t exposed to the compound.
Importantly, indole didn’t extend an animal’s overall lifespan—rather, it extended so-called “healthspan,” or the length of time before age-related problems start to creep in. Scientists still need to figure out if indole does the same thing to humans, and how it is exactly that indole generates these observed health benefits. But the lead researcher of the new study, Daniel Kalman from Emory University in Atlanta, is cautiously optimistic that this compound can eventually be used to delay age-related diseases and frailty in humans.
Indoles are a stinky organic compound that actually smells pleasant in small batches. When exposed to the elements, this compound bleeds into the atmosphere in large airborne clumps, which can, unfortunately, be picked up by the human nose. Indole, along with skatole, hydrogen sulfide, and mercaptans, is what gives poop its stinky smell. Scientists know that gut indole can influence the way we react to drugs, and even ward off disease, but its health-extending attributes are largely unknown.