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Microbiome Shifts in Early Childhood

A new study has both confirmed and shed new light on some aspects of microbiome development in an infant. The study says the transition from early infant feeding to "family foods" (solid foods that the rest of the family eats) is a major determinant for gut microbiota development.

Recent studies have also suggested inheriting obesity may partly be caused by the transmission of gut microbes that promote weight gain. However, the researchers believe maternal obesity alone does not impact the intestinal microbiota and its development after introduction of foods. Rather, progression in complementary feeding is the major factor for intestinal micrbiota development.

The study looked at the intestinal microbiota of two different infant groups, those born to a random sample of either healthy mothers or obese mothers. Intestinal microbiota data were compared to breastfeeding patterns and individual dietary recordings to assess effects of the complementary diet.

Stool samples of the children were collected at nine and 18 months of age, during the time the children’s diet changed from formula/breastfeeding to the food the rest of the family eats. This included intake of meats, cheeses and Danish rye bread rich in protein and fibre (note: this was a Danish study). By mapping the bacterial composition in the intestines at these two stages, the data showed that bacterial composition had developed very similarly among both groups of children.

”The study shows that the development in bacterial composition between nine and 18 months is evidently independent of maternal overweight and of the associated eating habits,” said the lead researcher. “The development is primarily affected by the milk-based diet being replaced with family food, which is rich in fibre and protein, as well as breastfeeding duration.”

While other factors such as mode of delivery, gestational age at birth and the mother’s weight may have influenced the development of intestinal bacterial composition immediately after birth, the study shows that these factors have very little influence on bacterial composition by the time infants are nine months old.

”It takes three to five years before a child’s gut bacterial population is fully established. The more we know about the factors that influence development at different stages, the better we can support initiatives that can be used to help children develop a healthy gut,” said the researchers.

"Knowledge about how gut bacteria are established in early childhood can help shed light on why some people end up struggling with their weight as well as diseases like allergies and diabetes later in life."

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Source: Infant Gut Microbiota Development Is Driven by Transition to Family Foods Independent of Maternal Obesity

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