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Restoring the damaged baby microbiome: ‘This is the biggest development in infant nutrition in years’

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

'It’s humbling for science to find out we have crossed paths with mother nature in this way.' Image: iStock
'It’s humbling for science to find out we have crossed paths with mother nature in this way.' Image: iStock

Related tags: Docosahexaenoic acid

The biochemist instrumental in making DHA omega-3 near-mandatory in infant formula 15 years ago says discoveries about the ‘baby microbiome’ are set to revolutionise our view of infant and embryonic feeding.

Dr David Kyle, a founder of the Maryland-based algae-sourced DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplier that Martek Biosciences DSM paid about €830m for in 2011, told us rises in chronic disease and allergies can be directly traced to the modern disturbance of the baby microbiome.

Restore the baby microbiome – dominated by one strain bifididobacterium longum sub-species infantus – ​and reduce the rates of gut disorders, asthma, obesity, food intolerance and more.

“This is the biggest development in infant nutrition in years,” ​said Dr Kyle, who will present latest findings at Probiota​ in Amsterdam between February 2-4.

“The use of antibiotics, rise in formula feeding and caesarean sections have all combined to alter the baby microbiome that evolved to be 75-80% dominated by ​bifidibacterium longum sub. infantus.”

"We need to reverse this shift."

Working with scientists at the University of California at Davis (UC Davis), Dr Kyle has established Evolve Biosystems in California to further research in the area and develop supplements that can help restore the baby microbiome back to what he says is its natural and healthy state. The enterprise has received investment from Tate & Lyle Ventures, which sees potential for prebiotics in formulations.

drdavidkyle
Dr David Kyle

In his Martek days back at the back end of the 1990s and early 2000s the battle was to convince regulators and infant formula makers of the brain and eye sight development benefits DHA could bring to babies. In the end the weight of evidence was so compelling the addition of DHA become a virtual baby formula no-brainer around the globe along with arachidonic acid (ARA).

Now the battle ground for change is the fragile infant gut ecosystem.

“Look at caesarian-section babies. They do not have the same microbiome. They have a disbiotic microbiome that is closer to an adult microbiome but not suitable for a baby. And so they have higher risk for allergies, atopy, obesity. The risk goes up in all sorts of disorders.”

“Over-reliance on infant formula, antibiotics – all are affecting  the microbiome of the baby.”

Losing the baby microbiome?

While acknowledging that C-sections, formula feeding and antibiotics were sometimes necessary, Dr Kyle said their use had spread far beyond what could be considered medically required. C-section deliveries accounted for as many as 35% of babies born in some countries, when only 10% or less were necessary procedures when vaginal delivery was not possible for one reason or another.

“It’s humbling for science to find out we have crossed paths with mother nature in this way,” ​he said.

“The problem is the western world and westernising practices – we are losing the baby microbiome from the population in total. Mum’s have had multiple courses of antibiotics which has cleaned out the microbiome. It is not the same in many Asian countries for instance.”

Modifying the microbiome

Quick-fixes like re-introducing the particular strain to infant formula were not necessarily the answer. He said a schism had developed between microbiome and research in the €20bn probiotic sector over the capacity of probiotics to influence the baby microbiome.

“The problem with probiotics – they have a warm and fuzzy feel – but there is little data – and it is unjustified in a mechanistic sense. If there is a mechanistic link there it would have a bigger take off.”

He said adding probiotics to formula occurred but often with an inappropriate genus, even if it was assumed the method was efficacious in altering the baby microbiome.

His firm is studying the natural complex carbohydrate materials found in breast milk to realign the baby microbiome, working with UC Davis researchers like microbiome expert professor David Mills, professor Bruce German, head of the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis, and glycochemists professors Carlito Lebrilla and Daniela Barile.

“The thing with conventional oligosaccharides like GOS and FOS is that they are non-discriminatory, and the oligosaccharides found in breast milk are very specific for the growth of​ B. longum subsp. infantis”

Dr Kyle expects a product on-market in a 'few years', as underway trials complete and are peer-reviewed to back formulations.

probiota

Probiota 2016

Dr Kyle will present at Probiota 2016 in Amsterdam on February 2-4.

From zombie probiotics ​to the future of microbiome science; an EFSA exclusive to global hotspot market wraps; infants and the aged; case studies; latest research and formulations plus more ​Probiota 2016 is a knowledge store you probably shouldn’t miss.

Click here​ for more.

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2 comments

Serious misconceptions - bad prospects for infants

Posted by Dr. Michael Helm, Dynamic Nutrition Lab,

disastruous effects of PUFAs on cellular structure and function are well established for several decades. So peer-reviewed product science merely caricatures science.

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Happy Jumping on a train

Posted by Dr. Guenther Sawatzki,

Nice to see that my old friend David is jumping on a running Train again. 25 years ago we introduced n-3 and n-6 LCPUFA in Infant formulas in Europe and David was just fumbling in his lab with algae...funny he became an expert in the US later. 10 years later we were Publishing about the new world of human oligosacharides and their influence on the infants gut Flora ending up with the fírst Addition of oligosaccharides into Infant formulas. Now, about 15 years later David has some ideas how to influence this Flora... Congratulations for jumping on a running Train again, David! Did you recognize that this Train is running now since many years? But it may be you want to make another Million Dollar Business...Go on!

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