Severe micronutrient deficiency in the first 1000 days of a child’s life can lead to irreversible disturbances in physical and mental development. In particular, the growth of all intestinal functions is impaired, such as the ability to use (healthy) nutrients and to ward off pathogens of any kind. As a result, a vicious cycle arises: the stunted children remain very susceptible to infections and inflammation. In addition, Bowel inflammations slow down the much needed intake of micronutrients etc.
Scientists from all over the world are exploring ways to reduce intestinal inflammation in affected infants in order to resolve this issue (1). There has been a shift in thinking in recent years (2). For many years, the focus of research has been on harmful microorganisms and environmental toxins. These, due to a lack of hygiene, enter the infantile organism, which is already weakened by malnutrition, and hence cause diarrhea.
Recent research has shown, that inside in the intestinal mucosa of stunted children harmful bacteria outweigh and disturb the healthy balance of the microorganisms located there. The scientists believe that supporting the development of a healthy gut flora, such as long-term breastfeeding and the administration of prebiotics, is a promising approach to countering environmental inflammation in the intestine. Possibly, the associated delays in the physical and mental development of babies and toddlers in poorer countries could be combated in this way.
(1) See for example the publication of the consortium MAL-ED Network. Relationship between growth and illness, enteropathogens and dietary intakes in the first 2 years of life: findings from the MAL-ED birth cohort study. BMJ Global Health. Published online 28 December 2017. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000370
(2) KM Harper et al. Environmental enteric dysfunction pathways and child stunting: A systematic review. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2018 Jan; 12(1): e0006205. Published online 2018 Jan 19. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0006205, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5792022/ and
KD Tickel et al. utritional Enteric Failure: Neglected Tropical Diseases and Childhood Stunting. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 10(4): e0004523. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0004523
as well as Students4Kids. Best Practice. Blog, Prestigious Award for Microbiome Research against Micronutrient Deficiency, available at https://students4kids.org/en/blog/prestigious-award-for-microbiome-research-against-micronutrient-deficiency/