FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
This animal study shows long-term effects on the gut microbiota from consuming a typical western-type diet (high in both sugar and fat) during childhood.
Bacterial richness and diversity was significantly reduced by this diet - which was fed from weaning until sexual maturity - and although a normal, healthier diet was then fed to the animals, these changes to the gut microbiota were still apparent the equivalent of six human years later.
Both exercise and genetic factors were also shown to interact with diet to influence gut microbial composition.
These data show the importance of infancy and childhood as critical developmental periods for the establishment of the gut microbiome, with negative effects of diet during this time persisting well into adulthood.
While generalisability from animal studies to humans can never be assumed, these findings add to the already substantial evidence from human studies that early life nutrition can have significant effects on health in later life.
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