The aim of this study was to compare the effects of the mixture of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. rhamnosus strain GG, Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12, and inulin on intestinal populations of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and enterobacteria in adult and elderly rats fed the same (in quality and quantity) diet. The portal plasma levels of two neuropeptides, neuropeptide Y (NPY) and peptide YY (PYY), were also evaluated to assess the physiological consequences of the synbiotic treatment for the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of rats of different ages. Adult (n = 24) and elderly (n = 24) male rats were fed the AIN-93 M maintenance diet. After 2 weeks of adaptation, the diet of 12 rats of each age group was supplemented with 8% inulin and with strains GG and Bb12 to provide 2.2 X 10(9) CFU of each strain g(-1) of the diet. Blood and different regions of the GI tract were sampled from all rats after 21 days of the treatment. Treatment with the mixture of strain GG, strain BB12, and inulin induced significantly different changes in the numbers of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and enterobacteria of the stomach, small intestine, cecum, and colon microflora. Moreover, the GG, BB12, and inulin mixture increased the concentrations of NPY and PYY for adult rats. For the elderly animals, the PYY concentration was not changed, while the NPY concentration was decreased by treatment with the GG, BB12, and inulin mixture. The results of the present study indicate that the physiological status of the GI tract, and not just diet, has a major role in the regulation of important groups of the GI bacteria community, since even the outcome of the dietary modification with synbiotics depends on the ages of the animals.