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Using Gut Health to Improve Nutrition

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Why is Gut Health Important?

As a continuation of the topic previously touched on in the article The Importance of Gut Health, the diversity and number of micro-bacteria found in the intestine play a vital role in one's physical and psychological health. Certain foods, such as probiotics, can have a good influence on the bacteria within people's guts, while events such as being born from a c-section could create the potential to miss out on some bacteria. Using what was learned from studying the microbes found in others' guts, a study was conducted to determine if targeting these bacteria by having malnourished kids eat specific foods meant restoring gut health. Would this help the kids more effectively gain weight and grow?

Gut Bacteria Restoration

The study took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh and its findings were published on April 7th to The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers created a dietary supplement of chickpeas, soy flour, green bananas, oil, and sugar. The usual calorie-dense treatment for malnutrition as compared to the children that received the food prototype. The food prototype, MDCF-2, as compared to a ready-to-eat supplementary food (RUSF) and was fed to 123 Bangladeshi children with moderate acute malnutrition between the ages of 12 months and 18 months. The supplementation was given twice daily for 3 months, followed by 1 month of monitoring.”

The phenotypes of the children were observed by obtaining weight for length, weight for age, length for age z, and the mid-upper arm circumference were compared between a period of 3 months and between baseline and 4 months. Researchers also observed proteins in plasma and studied the bacteria found in fecal samples. In their results, they found that the rates of change in the childerns' weight for height and weight-for-age-z were consistent with the added benefit of continued growth after a 1 month follow up. Also, through observation of the fecal matter of the children, it was found that their gut bacteria better matched those of healthy kids.

It was concluded that MDCF-2 as a dietary supplement provided valuable insight to the manipulation of microbiota and how it’s mechanism can be related to development. "The influence of the [microbial] community reaches well beyond the wall of the gut to influence many systems," said senior author Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Although the RUSF treatment was noticeably more dense in calories by about 20%,they found that the rates of changes between the weight for length and weight for age z results supported that MDCF02 promotes growth. Furthermore, Ruairi Robertson, a postdoctoral researcher in gut microbiomes at Queen Mary University of London who was not involved in the research said, "This intervention with a lower calorie density can actually improve weight gain in these kids to a greater extent than something with a higher calorie density". He goes on to say that the findings of this research alter the way we think about calorie intake, while also emphasizing the significance of gut bacteria in child development.

Article author: Idil Gure

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Maria Giroux

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