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Breastfeeding Linked to Healthy Infant Gut

Glynis Steele

Senior Member
Newcastle upon Tyne UK
From Science Daily. This talks about the differences in bacterial colonization of formula-fed and breast-fed babies which leads to changes in the infants expression of genes involved in the immune system, and in defense against pathogens

Breastfeeding Linked to Healthy Infant Gut: Bacterial Colonization Leads to Changes in the Infant's Expression of Genes

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2012) Early colonization of the gut by microbes in infants is critical for development of their intestinal tract and in immune development. A new study, published in BioMed Centrals open access journal Genome Biology, shows that differences in bacterial colonization of formula-fed and breast-fed babies leads to changes in the infants expression of genes involved in the immune system, and in defense against pathogens.

The health of individuals can be influenced by the diversity of microbes colonizing the gut, and microbial colonization can be especially important in regulating both intestinal and immune development in infants. However, little is known about the potential interactions between the hosts health at a molecular level, their gut microbes, and diet.

The human intestine is lined by epithelial cells that process nutrients and provide the first line of defense against food antigens and pathogens. Approximately one-sixth of intestinal epithelial cells are shed every day into feces, providing a non-invasive picture of what is going on inside the gut.

In this study, the authors used transcriptome analysis to compare the intestines of three month old 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 transcribed into RNA molecules and is a measure of what genes are actively making proteins. Concurrently the microbes (microbiome) were identified by genetic analysis.

The results showed that the breast-fed babies had a wider range of microbes in their gut than the formula-fed infants but that their immune systems had developed to cope.

Robert Chapkin from the Texas A&M University, who led this multi-centre study, explained, While we found that the microbiome of breast-fed infants is significantly enriched in genes associated with virulence, including resistance to antibiotics and toxic compounds, we also found a correlation between bacterial pathogenicity and the expression of host genes associated with immune and defense mechanisms.

He continued, Our findings suggest that human milk promotes the beneficial crosstalk between the immune system and microbe population in the gut, and maintains intestinal stability.



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Thanks Glynis for this link. As a breatsfeeding counsellor of many years it is exactly what we have been trying to tell people all along. A healthy gut is linked to a healthy immune system and the proper development of the gut. Not that it is only those who are EXCLUSIVELY breastfed i.e no other substances except breastmilk who will gain the most advantages.

Another interesting area for gut health in newborns is the differences between the gut flora of vaginally delivered babies and those delivered by caesarean section.

All the best, Justy.