The development of the digestive system is not completed upon birth and the developmental stage of an infant determines what can be digested and how this occurs. Vice versa, nutrition has a major influence on the gastrointestinal tract and its development. Optimal nutrition therefore supports the healthy development of the digestive and metabolic system.
IS GUT THE FIRST IMMUNE ORGAN?
Our gut is our biggest interface to the outside world, hosting 60-70% of our immune cells. A healthy adult gut is also home to the microbiota – a unique community of around 100 trillion bacteria. Collectively these bacteria can be considered as an organ, because they are vital for health. Gut bacteria are key players for digestion and for building immune tolerance, as they provide immunity in early life. Similarly, in adults and the elderly, an unbalanced microbiota is associated with various diseases such as irritable bowel disease, frailty, and metabolic syndrome. Interestingly, research increasingly links bacterial imbalance to disease risk.
Our gut is our biggest interface to the outside world, hosting 60-70% of our immune cells.
MODULATING GUT MICROBIOTA THROUGH NUTRITION
Nutricia Research has been a pioneer in modulating the gut microbiota through nutrition to improve health. Our research focuses on the complex interplay between nutrition and the early programming of the digestive system in infants, but also the specific needs of a challenged gastrointestinal system.
Our research programme focuses on understanding the development of the microbiota of a breast-fed infant, its influence on health and disease later in life, and how the microbiota can be modulated through nutrition. In addition, we study how different diseases are associated with microbial imbalance.
Taking inspiration from human milk composition we developed and used prebiotics to stimulate a healthy microbiota in early life, in order to have positive outcomes in the areas of allergies and infections. Examples include our patented prebiotic scGOS/lcFOS mixture for infants and our patented fiber mix to promote gut health for the elderly and the ill.
We are currently in the initial stages of researching how bacteria can interfere with brain development or metabolic programming early in life. The aim here is to further optimise bacterial colonisation for improved health.
We follow a translational research approach in collaboration with academic and non-academic partners. In the centre of specialised nutrition we have in-house facilities and expertise, including preclinical and clinical study approaches and research.