Malnutrition during childhood affects intestinal health

A microbiological study published in the British journal Nature shows that malnutrition in childhood affects intestinal health and does not fully recover after nutritional intervention. This study may explain why therapeutic food interventions do not always allow such children to return to normal development over time.

The microbial community in the gut plays an important role in the process of extracting and metabolizing nutrients from food. Jeffrey Gordon and his research team at Washington University in St. Louis, USA, compared the gut microbiota of malnourished children and healthy children in Bangladesh, and found that the intestinal flora of malnourished children showed an immature state. Existing food-based treatments can only be partially restored. The researchers tested a hypothesis that malnutrition does disrupt the development of the gut flora.

In this survey, team members identified the gut microbiota characteristics of healthy Bangladeshi children under two years of age, and based on this, assessed the gut flora status of children with malnutrition before and after two food interventions. The secondary food interventions are imported peanut-based supplements and local-based therapeutic foods based on rice and lentils. Both food interventions showed some improvement in the maturity of the children’s gut flora, but these improvements did not last long.

The authors believe that malnourished children’s gut health may be impaired, but by prolonging therapeutic food interventions and increasing gut microbiota, or by taking either of these two measures, clinical performance may be improved.