Gut microbiota of infants predicts obesity in children

October 23, 2018

Washington, DC - October 23, 2018 - Evaluating the gut microbiota of infants may help identify children who are at risk for becoming overweight or obese, according to results from a recent study published in mBio. The research revealed that gut microbiota composition at 2 years of life is associated with body mass index (BMI) at age 12. In addition, the BMI at age 2 was not significantly higher in children who later became overweight/obese, indicating that gut microbiota composition may be the earliest warning sign for detecting obesity.

"Our study provides more evidence that the gut microbiota might be playing a role in later obesity," said lead author Maggie Stanislawski, PhD, who is a research associate at the LEAD Center, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, Colorado. "If our findings can be confirmed by other studies, the gut microbiota might play an important part of the obesity prediction algorithm, to identify at-risk kids early in life, before they start to gain any excess weight that might put them at risk for later obesity."

Prior to this study, a growing body of evidence has demonstrated that the gut microbiota plays a role in obesity, and there is some evidence that the role might be causal. To shed more light on the issue, the University of Colorado researchers collaborated with Merete Eggesbø, MD, PhD, who leads the NoMIC study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, and analyzed data from 165 infants who had BMI measured at 12 years.

The NoMIC study began in 2002 as one of the earliest birth cohorts in the world to investigate the early life gut microbiome and includes roughly 550 kids who are now teenagers. The study recruited moms and infants in the hospital at the time of delivery. At 12 years of age, 20% of the 165 children in the study cohort were overweight or obese.

The researchers compared the BMI at age 12 with gut microbiota samples from six time points throughout their childhood, at day 4, day 10, one month, four months, one year, and two years. They performed 16s rRNA gene sequencing on the gut microbiota samples. "We looked at whether there were specific taxa that were predictive of later BMI at each time point," said Dr. Stanislawski.

The researchers found qualitative differences in the composition of children's gut microbiota at day ten and at two years that were associated with BMI z-scores at age 12. BMI z-scores are measures of relative weight adjusted for child age and sex. They also examined how much of the variation in childhood BMI z-scores was explained by the early gut microbiota taxa.

"At the early time points, there was somewhat of a relationship between the gut microbiota taxa and later BMI, but the relationship was much stronger as the kids got older," said Dr. Stanislawski. "At one year, it was stronger than the earlier time points. At two years, it was the strongest. We found this very interesting because, at two years, there wasn't any obvious phenotype in terms of whether or not the kids were going to become obese. Kids who became obese later in life didn't have high BMI z-scores at age 2. The findings suggest that the gut microbiota phenotype was present before any overt sign of overweight or obesity. Since the gut microbiota is influenced by diet, this association could also reflect dietary choices that are precursors to obesity."

Dr. Stanislawski said the study was limited in that the entire cohort was of Norwegian descent. This research, she said, needs to be repeated in other cohorts, but if replicated, it may lead to a new tool to identify kids at risk for developing obesity. "It is better to identify at-risk kids early. It is easier to prevent obesity than to reverse it," said Dr. Stanislawski. "It's possible that if we follow up some of these findings in the lab, it will reveal more about the pathophysiology of obesity as well."

The study also exposed a potential health caution. The researchers found that some gut microbes that are generally thought to be healthy in both children and adults were associated with higher childhood BMI. This highlights that we do not fully understand the dynamics of the gut colonization process.

"When I was pregnant, my doctor suggested giving the baby probiotics every day, and I think a lot of people are giving their infants probiotics," said Dr. Stanislawski. "However, it might not be the best idea to give babies the same types of bacteria every day, particularly in very early life when overloading the gut with one or two strains may prevent colonization with other types of important bacteria." She pointed out that one way to improve the gut microbiota in kids and adults is to eat a well-balanced diet with lots of different types of vegetables and fiber, so there are lots of things feeding the gut microbiota.

Future research will focus on further examining the colonization process in relation to other markers of metabolic health in children. "We will focus on the temporal dynamics of first two years," said Dr. Stanislawski.
-end-
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.

American Society for Microbiology

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.