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Study affirms effect of delivery mode and diet on infant gut microbiome

Posted:  Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Recent times have witnessed a growing interest in the gut microbiome and its imprint on long-term health. Now, a new study has further confirmed how the mode of delivery and diet could influence the infant gut microbiome. The study showed that exclusively breastfed infants have a different gut microbiome than infants who were fed formula or a combination of formula and breast milk. The delivery method also appeared to influence the gut microbiome profile.

Published online in JAMA Pediatrics, the study examined the hypothesis that exposure to maternal microflora during vaginal delivery and/or to breast milk determines the composition of the core microbiome in infants. The researchers involved 102 infants in the study. They gathered data related to their delivery mode and feeding. They also tested their stool samples to determine the microbiome composition.

The study confirmed earlier evidence on the subject. The composition of the gut microbiome was linked to the delivery method. There were differences in the microbiota composition between infants delivered vaginally and those delivered by C-section. The microbiome of exclusively breastfed infants was different from those who were fed formula or a combination of breast milk and formula. However, the microbiome profile was similar among infants fed formula milk alone and those fed the combination. These findings offer a hint of how breastfeeding positively impacts health, both in childhood and in the long term.

Emphasising the importance of the study, the researchers said, "Understanding the patterns of microbial colonisation of the intestinal tract of healthy infants is critical for determining the health effects of specific alterable early-life risk factors and exposures. To this end, we have identified measurable differences in microbial communities in the intestinal tracts of infants according to their delivery mode and diet, with possible consequences for both short- and long-term health."

However, the study had a few drawbacks. It had a small sample size, which was derived from a single group in the USA. The researchers have called for future investigation into the precise amount of the infants' diets and timing.

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