Breastfeeding key to keeping infant gut healthy

Breast-fed babies have healthier gut than formula-fed infants, thanks to the mother’s milk, which encouraged beneficial bugs to grow and protect the infants from illness and pathogens, says a study.

The finding has been borne out by a new study that shows that differences in bacterial colonisation of formula-fed and breast-fed babies are involved in infant’s expression of genes.

The health of individuals can be influenced by the diversity of microbes colonizing the gut, which is especially important in regulating both intestinal and immune development in infants, reported the journal Genome Biology.

However, little is known about the potential interactions between the host’s health at a molecular level, their gut microbes, and diet, according to a Texas A&M University statement.

Robert Chapkin from the Texas A&M University, who led this multi-center study, explained: “Our findings suggest that human milk promotes the beneficial crosstalk between the immune system and microbe population in the gut, and maintains intestinal stability.”

The human intestine is lined by epithelial cells (covering cavities and flat surfaces in the body) that process nutrients and provide the first line of defence against food antigens and pathogens. Approximately a sixth of them are shed every day into faeces, providing a non-invasive picture of what is going on inside the gut.

Researchers based their findings on transcriptome analysis to compare the intestines of three-month-olds exclusively breast-fed or formula-fed infants, and relate this to their gut microbes.

Transcriptome analysis looks at the small percentage of the genetic code that is a measure of what genes are actively making proteins. Concurrently the microbes (microbiome) were identified by genetic analysis.