BANGALORE: Children who are malnourished cannot really grow normally even when they are fed nourishing food as the microbial population in their guts remains immature, say scientists.
A study by scientists from Bangladesh and USA compared the microbial populations between healthy children in an urban slum in Dhaka in Bangladesh and children with severe acute malnutrition and some children with moderate acute malnutrition. They compared and analysed faecal samples and also checked for genetic and environmental factors, including diarrhoea.
Earlier studies have found that therapeutic food interventions have reduced mortality in children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but incomplete restoration of healthy growth remains a major problem.
The scientists said: “SAM is associated with significant relative microbiota immaturity that is only partially ameliorated following two widely used nutritional interventions. Immaturity is also evident in less severe forms of malnutrition.”
They suggest “More prolonged interventions with existing or new therapeutic foods and/or addition of gut microbes may be needed to achieve enduring repair of gut microbiota immaturity in childhood malnutrition and improve clinical outcomes.”
The study was recently published in the ‘Nature’ magazine.
Nachiket Marathe, a scientist at National centre for Cell Science in Pune, says: “Metabolites produced by bacteria in the gut have a profound effect on host health. The short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by gut microbiota help avoid colonization of pathogenic bacteria, provide energy source for colonic epithelial cells.
The SCFAs have been shown to reduce diet induced obesity and insulin resistance in mice.
The gut microbiota is known to be altered in many disease conditions like obesity, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. This study highlighted the importance of altered gut flora as causative agents in disease. Thus, having a healthy gut flora essentially means being healthy.”