How a Healthy Microbiome Can Protect against Growth Retardations

How a Healthy Microbiome Can Protect against Growth Retardations

Scientific research is increasingly focusing on the possibilities to establish a healthy microbiome in infants and small children to reduce the causes of children’s growth retardation (stunting) (1). The microbiome can be described as the collectivity of all microorganisms (microbes) that live on and in our body. It has a great influence on the development of a healthy immune system and the risk of suffering from chronic diseases later in life.

Currently researchers are especially focusing on the microbial composition of the intestine in the critical timeframe of the first 1,000 days, within the intestinal microbiome develops. Microbiome-Research is still at its infancy, mostly concentrating on the influence of maternal infant nutrition. Under the title Eating for Trillions, Texan researchers summarized relevant findings from three studies with Malawian children (2):

Young gnotobiotic mice (mice growing up under germ-free conditions) got implanted bacteria from Malawian children’s stools. Depending on whether these children were healthy or malnourished  the animals developed differently. Mice that got transplanted the bacteria of healthy children experienced a solid weight gain, even after they received nutrient-poor feed. In contrast, mice with the intestinal bacteria of stunted children and the same nutrient-poor food composition remained stunted , although they were allowed to eat ad libitum.  They succeeded in a healthy development when they were fed with sugar from the human mother’s milk (sialylated milk oligosaccharides). The following graphic illustrates the study structure:

study setting

The essence of this study is that the transmission of bacterial groups of healthy children as well as breastfeeding could help to successfully manage the therapy of malnourished children and prevent the occurrence of malnutrition by the establishment of a healthy intestinal flora.

Read and see more:

  1. Scientists point to the need to find new approaches to growth retardation in children. Compare exemplarily : CJ McGrath et al. Biomarkers to Stratify Risk Groups among Children with Malnutrition in Resource-Limited Settings and to Monitor Response to Intervention. Horm Res Paediatr. 2017 May 9. doi: 10.1159/000471875.
  2. DM Chu and KM Aagaard, Microbiome: Eating for trillions. Nature 532, 316–317 (21 April 2016) doi:10.1038/nature17887. Available via:

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