Who knew nappies could contain more than just mess.
Experts say your baby’s brain development lies in their dirty nappies. Yep, we had to read this sentence twice, too!
Experts say your baby’s IQ lies in their poo (yes, really!)
A team of scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine analysed the bacterial matter in the faeces of 100 little ones who were aged 12 months old.
A year later, samples were taken from the same children, and they were also made to perform a series of tests to examine their motor skills and language development.
Experts found that the colour and consistency of these infants’ poo can actually tell you a lot about a child’s health and brain power, as those who had high levels of a bacterial microbe called Bacteroides in their nappies, were found to have higher levels of cognitive development.
However, babies with diverse microbiomes in their excrement didn’t perform as well as those with less diverse microbiomes.
“The latter result was quite surprising,” says researcher Rebecca Knickmeyer.
“We had originally predicted that children with highly diverse microbiomes would perform better – since other studies have shown that low diversity in infancy is associated with negative health outcomes, including type 1 diabetes and asthma.
“Our work suggests that an ‘optimal’ microbiome for cognitive and psychiatric outcomes may be different than an ‘optimal’ microbiome for other outcomes.”
Why is this?
The gut is home to trillions of microbes that can have an enormous impact on the health of individuals, affecting everything from our ability to metabolise the nutrients in our food to our risk for developing gastrointestinal disorders like colitis, reads the study notes published in Biological Psychiatry.
Knickmeyer adds that researchers are still trying to determine why there may be a relationship between the gut microbiome and brain development.
“Are the bacteria actually ‘communicating’ with the developing brain?” she asks.
“That’s something that we are working on now, so we’re looking at some signalling pathways that might be involved.
“Another possibility is that the bacterial community is acting as a proxy for some other process that influences brain development – for example, variation in certain dietary nutrients.”
More research needs to be done
This is the first study to show that cognitive development is associated with the microbiome, so more research is yet to be done.
“Big picture: these results suggest you may be able to guide the development of the micrbiome to optimise cognitive development or reduce the risk for disorders like autism which can include problems with cognition and language,” says Knickmeyer.
“How you guide that development is an open question because we have to understand what the individual’s microbiome is and how to shift it.
“And this is something the scientific community is just beginning to work on.”
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