Guts to shape up in childhood

6 September 2019

Healthy diet and lifestyle lay the foundation for good gut ‘microbiota’ in early childhood according to research published by The University of Queensland.

UQ Child Health Research Centre Adjunct Research Fellow and dietitian Dr Misa Matsuyama said her findings showed the importance of early life nutrition on gut microbiota in children aged 1-2 years.

“The gut microbiota develops most rapidly in early life and diet is one of the most important factors directly influencing the make-up of these gut communities,” Dr Matsuyama said.

“By looking at the dietary intake of children, certain bacteria groups were found to be associated with the frequent consumption of either processed or unprocessed foods.

“It highlights that establishing a balanced dietary habit at this age is very important and goes on to shape our well-being through early life and beyond.

“We observed trends in some bacterial community members showing persistent association with the frequency of either unprocessed or processed food intakes recorded in the children’s diet over time.”

Dr Matsuyama’s study was carried out in conjunction with the Growing up Milk Lite (GUMLi) Randomised Controlled Trial.

This allowed the effects of fortified milk supplemented with a Bifidobacterium probiotic and prebiotics also to be assessed.

“We saw differences in the children’s Bifidobacteria profile depending on what they were given,” she said. Bifidobacteria are among the main health-enhancing bacteria.

“Capturing trends in the shifting gut microbiota community and the influence of dietary intake highlights the importance of establishing a balanced diet in early childhood.”

The cohort of 48 children had their gut microbiome assessed over seven points in time and their dietary intake over five.

Dr Matsuyama said diet and lifestyle factors learned in childhood were likely to have an ongoing effect on health in later years.

“Having a disturbed or an unbalanced gut microbiome community has been linked to a number of health issues such as the development of allergies, metabolic and weight management issues, mental health and inflammatory gut disorders,” she said.

“The best nutrition advice we can give parents is to provide a healthy, unprocessed and varied diet to kids.

“What we eat shapes our gut, and maintaining good diverse gut microbiome require “prebiotics” found in foods rich in fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and grains,  and balanced nutrition.”

This research is published in Scientific Reports (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-48658-4).

Media: Dr Misa Matsuyama,, +61 7 3365 2924; Faculty of Medicine Communications,, +61 7 3365 5118, +61 436 368 746.