Newborn's gut 'microbiome' could give clues to weight later

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Could your baby's poop give clues about their weight later on in their lives?
Could your baby's poop give clues about their weight later on in their lives?

A newborn's first stool holds telltale clues about his risk for becoming an overweight 3-year-old, according to a European study.

The clues come from the population of bacteria (microbiome) in the baby's gut.

Finnish researchers used genetic sequencing to analyse the first stool produced by 212 newborns and another sample at age 1. Called meconium, a baby's first stool is composed of material ingested while in the womb.

The children's weight and height were checked at regular visits, and their antibiotic use recorded.

Analysing the bacteria

Researchers found that the greater the abundance of Staphylococcus bacteria in an infant's first stool, the shorter the child was at 1 and 2 years of age.

Kids who were overweight by age 3 had much more (29% versus 15%) Bacteroidetes in their infant microbiome than those who were not overweight, the study found. Bacteroidetes are a large group of bacteria found in many environments, as well as in the guts and skin of many animals.

Newborns who were overweight by age 3 also had less Proteobacteria (19% versus 35%), according to the team led by researcher Katja Korpela from the University of Oulu.

The study was presented at a meeting of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, to be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The research also found that antibiotics can alter a child's microbiome.

Lasting impact of antibiotics

Babies who were given antibiotics in their first year of life had lower levels of Actinobacteria at age 1 than did those who received antibiotics shortly after birth, whose mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy, and those who had no exposure to antibiotics.

In a meeting news release, Korpela's team said that shows the lasting impact of antibiotics on a child's microbiome.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Image credit: iStock

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