For Healthcare Professionals only

Preschoolers' Diet and Gut Health: Unravelling the Connection: Study 1
By - Danone Nutricia Academy

Key takeaways

  • Infant gut microflora is pivotal in overall health and immunity.
  • Early intake patterns of carbohydrates, energy, protein, fat, and fibers modulate the gut microbiota composition in adulthood.
  • Diverse genera of gut microbiota are linked to intake of each nutritional component, suggesting that dietary interventions can modulate gut microbiota.

 

Background

The gut microbiome is a crucial determinant of human health by promoting its maintenance.For instance, it aids in the immune responses, and helps synthesize vitamins.1 The gut microbiota composition is influenced by long-term diet. Nutritional components such as carbohydrates, energy, protein, fat, prebiotics and fibers modulate the gut microbiota composition in adulthood.2 For instance, consumption of prebiotics by children promote the bifidobacterial populations, increase calcium absorption, and may exert long-term health benefits.3 Thus, establishing the roles of dietary components in gut microbiota composition, especially from early life, is vital for early nutritional interventions.2

This Journal Watch discusses how dietary components modulate the gut microbiota composition. The study reviewed examined the gut microbiota composition and their correlation with long-term dietary intake from infancy to late adolescence-published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Study 1: Gut Microbiota Composition in Children with Different Dietary Habits

What was the objective of the study?

The study goal was to correlate dietary consumption with microbiome features in a diverse population of children.

Study design

Table 1 shows the design of the study.

Table 1. Study design to assess the correlation between gut microbial composition and dietary patterns in children.Adapted from: Herman et al. 20191

Study type Cross-sectional study
Participants and dietary patterns Healthy children between 2 to 9 years of age Food groups:
  • Grains (ounce equivalents): Whole, non-whole/refined
  • Vegetables (cup equivalents): Dark green, orange, starchy vegetables, and tomatoes
  • Fruits (cup equivalents): Melons and citrus fruits, berries, and other fruits
  • Whole milk (cup equivalents): Milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Meat and beans (ounce equivalents): Meat, poultry and fish, peas and beans (cooked, dried), soybean products (tofu and meat analogs), and seeds and nuts
Inclusion criteria
  • The child weaned from breastfeeding
  • No history of communicable diseases at recruitment
Exclusion criteria Healthy children between 2 to 9 years of age Children who:
  • had taken antibiotics three months before screening
  • had excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • had blood or mucus in their stool
Outcome measures
  • Gut microbiota of each fecal sample was characterized using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing.
  • Dietary recalls were analyzed using the self-administered automated 24-Hour Recall Dietary Assessment Tool

Results

For α-diversity:

  • It was positively associated with age.
  • Older children had more diverse microbiota, suggesting that assembly of the gut microbiome continues well into childhood.1

For β-diversity:

  • Gender demonstrated nosignificant association with microbial diversity.
  • Microbiome β -diversity was strongly associated with age, but not with sex.
  • In macronutrients, fats, protein, and total carbohydrate consumption were related to community membership and structure.
  • The most abundant genus,Bacteroides, was positively correlated with whole grains and negatively correlated with animal protein intake (Figure1).
  • Animal-derived foods demonstrated no strong association with microbiome structure or membership.
  • Manymicronutrients- vitamin B and minerals- were strongly associated with microbiome structure and composition.1
Graph A
Graph B

Figure 1. Different bacterial genera, their relative abundance, and their correlation with (A) several food groups consumption and (B) nutrient intake in children between 2 to 9 years of age. Adapted from: Herman et al., 2019.

Ellipses show correlations only with uncorrected P<0.05. ‘o’indicates significance post false discovery rate correction (P≤0.05). Each ellipse width is proportional to the correlation strength (i.e., Spearman values)

Conclusion

Dietary macro-and micronutrients influence the overall gut microbiota composition throughout early life. As children grow, the gut microbiota matures and gets more diverse, suggesting that assembly of the gut microbiome starts fromearly childhood. A few key dietary components, such as foods high in fibers, vitamins, and minerals, by consuming diverse plant proteins have the strongest associations to gut microbiota development.Prebiotics consumption by children promote the bifidobacterial populations, yielding long-term health benefits. In conclusion, dietary choices and patterns at an early age stronglyinfluence the gut microbiota in the long run. Therefore, early interventions with the right nutrients will improve gut- and overall health.

References:

  1. Herman DR, Rhoades N, Mercado J, Argueta P, Lopez U, Flores GE. Dietary habits of 2-to 9-year-old American children are associated with gut microbiome composition. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020 Apr 1;120(4):517-34.
  2. Oluwagbemigun K, O'Donovan AN, Berding K, Lyons K, Alexy U, Schmid M, Clarke G, Stanton C, Cryan J, Nöthlings U. Long-term dietary intake from infancy to late adolescence is associated with gut microbiota composition in young adulthood. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2021 Mar;113(3):647-56.
  3. Davis EC, Dinsmoor AM, Wang M, Donovan SM. Microbiome composition in pediatric populations from birth to adolescence: impact of diet and prebiotic and probiotic interventions. Digestive diseases and sciences. 2020 Mar;65(3):706-22.

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