The Introduction To Solid Foods and Gut Microbiota Stability

Written by
Fathalla Ali, Bsc MSc, MPH and PHD student UNSW

The first 1-3 years of life is an important period for the development of our gut microbiota. During this critical time, gut microbiota development progresses from it being a relatively simple microbial community that is less rich and diverse, to a one that is high in richness and diversity. Gestational age (full-term versus preterm), mode of delivery (vaginal versus cesarean), early feeding practice (breastfeeding versus formula), antibiotic exposure (mother and infant), and the introduction of solid foods are the most important influences that effect on gut microbiota development during this period.

 

Switching from breastfeeding to formula feeding during the infancy period has been identified to impact the relative abundance of the good microbiota such as Bifidobacterium. Additionally, weaning or the introduction to solid food has been considered as an important milestone during infancy, however, it’s not known if the choice of specific food or variety of food could impact on microbiota diversity and structure.

 

In a recent study, the association between food choice at the time of introduction to solid food and the gut microbiota development was investigated to deeply understand the impact of nutritional exposure on the gut microbiota in early life. This was the first study to collect detailed dietary data on day-to-day basis during an important period of infancy followed by evaluation of gut microbiome to 12-14 months of age for 24 healthy full-term infants living in Canada and The Netherlands (15 Canadian and 9 Dutch).  Results from this study showed that:

  • Carrot, banana, and avocado were the most common food consumed by the two study groups (Canadian infants and Dutch infants).

 

  • Microbiota responses to the introduction of solid food has been identified despite the difference in the geographical location.

 

  • The stability of gut microbiota was associated with diet diversity throughout the period of solid food introduction.

 

  • Canadian infants were exposed to a greater number of food items/groups and to a larger number of common food allergens such as peanuts, wheat, eggs, fish, milk, and tree nuts compared with the Dutch infants. An average of 15 solid food items from all food groups were introduced to the Canadian infants during the 2 weeks of study period, compared with 8 food items in the Dutch group.

 

  • Microbiota diversity and richness were found to be higher in Canadian infants due to the introduction of greater number of solid foods items and the exposure to the common allergic foods.

 

  • The growth of Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides and Veillonella showed similar response to diet in both study groups.

 

  • Veillonella has been known as protective factor that associated with continued breastfeeding. In this study, the abundance of Veillonella decreased due to the increase in the amount of food consumed and the decrease dependance in breastfeeding.

 

  • The abundance of some members of the genus Bifidobacterium was found to be associated with dietary diversity in both groups.

In conclusion, this study indicates that, the developing gut microbiome is highly impacted with the first solid food during infancy. Food that are diverse and high in fibre are associated with higher microbiota diversity. Higher microbiota diversity is associated with the stability of gut microbiota that is important for the healthy gut.   

Keywords: Microbiota, Healthy gut, Bifidobacterium, Veillonella,  High fiber, Solid foods, Weaning, Diversity, Breastfeeding, Stability.

Reference:

Homann, C.-M., Rossel, C. A. J., Dizzell, S., Bervoets, L., Simioni, J., Li, J., Gunn, E., et al. (2021). Infants’ First Solid Foods: Impact on Gut Microbiota Development in Two Intercontinental Cohorts. Nutrients13(8), 2639. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu13082639. Click here.

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