Malnutirion has long-term affect on gut-bacteria6th June 2014
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates severe acute malnutrition affects 20m children globally, with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) affecting around 30m - with particular prevalence in South Central Asia.
Bangladesh has a noticeably high level of undernourished children affected by stunted growth (more than 40%). Common long-term affects of malnutrition beyond stunted growth include cognitive problems and weakened immune systems.
A team of US scientists* studied the gut health of 64 malnourished children in Bangladesh between the ages of six to 20 months. They took faecal samples from the children before they were given food and every three days while they were being treated (which was usually for two weeks), stopping when they reached a certain weight.
When 50 health children of the same age were studied, the gut developed normally; however, when the 'malnourished' children gained weight, there was only a temporary improvement in the make-up of their gut. After the treatment stopped, their guts returned to an undeveloped state.
The study suggested that severe or moderate acute malnutrition can have a long-lasting affect on the health of children's guts and will require continual nourishment to maintain the ability to extract nutrients from food.
Commenting on the study, Prof Colin Hill of University College Cork, Ireland, said: "This is a really important and sophisticated study which focused on severely malnourished children, which further emphasises the importance of a mature diverse gut microbiota in human health.
"In the future, we will recognise that restoring the health of the gut microbiota is an important precursor to restoring the health of the child."
The results of the study were published in the journal Nature.
*The team was made up of members from Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka.
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