London: A baby`s first peas are a life-
changing event, at least as far as the microbes in its gut are
concerned, a new study has found.
For the study, a team at Cornell University in New
York analysed the bacteria in stool samples from a baby boy
from birth to age of two-and-a-half years - the first time
this has been done while the baby`s diet was recorded.
Predictably, his gut microbes grew more numerous and
diverse as he aged, but profound shifts occurred when he was
sampling new foods, the `New Scientist` reported.
Besides a course of antibiotics to treat an ear
infection, it was the introduction of peas and formula milk
that caused the greatest upheavals, according to lead
researcher Ruth Ley.
While the baby was breastfeeding, the bacteria in
his stomach contained numerous genes useful for breaking down
milk sugars. When he moved to a diet of solid foods, there
were more bacteria with genes that influence starch digestion.
Early childhood could be a good time to manipulate gut
bacteria to influence future health, since the bacteria appear
to respond readily to changes in diet at this age, said Ley.
The study has been published in the `Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences` journal.