Malnutrition offers insight into the gut-brain axis research gap

An international team of researchers reviewed 30 studies to explore the gut-brain axis, asย the metabolites, hormones and neurotransmitters exchanged through that axis are altered within the malnourished. Although scientists are exploring microbiome-based interventions as a tool to address malnutrition, cognitive improvements are more difficult to measure despite other physiological gains.ย 

โ€œEven if the gut microbiome of malnourished children can be restored to more closely resemble the community structure of their well-nourished peers, it remains unclear if cognitive development is restored in parallel,โ€ the researchers wrote. โ€œWe conclude that there is a need for assessment of cognition and the use of various tools that permit visualization of the brain anatomy and function (magnetic resonance imaging, functional near-infrared spectroscopy, electroencephalogram) to understand how interventions targeting the gut microbiome impact brain development.โ€

Restoring microbial diversity?โ€‹

Malnutrition is a global problem affecting 195 million children under the age of 5, influencing height and weight but also impairing cognitive development. Moreover, rapid brain growth occurs within the first 36 months of life, but malnutrition stunts that growth with effects that reach into later life, the researchers noted.

โ€œDue to the inadequate nutrients received from breast milk and the impact of solid food introduction, the malnourished infant’s gut microbiome does not follow the same developmental trajectory that is observed in healthy infants,โ€ they added.

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