Infants' Long-Term Health Affected by Delivery Method and Diet

January 11, 2016
Amy Jacob

Cesarean (C-section) deliveries and babies’ post-birth diets have an effect on six-week-old infants’ gut microbiomes.

Cesarean (C-section) deliveries and babies’ post-birth diets have an effect on six-week-old infants’ gut microbiomes.

This delivery method has been linked with obesity, asthma, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes down the line.

In a recent study, Anne G. Hoen, PhD, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth, Lebanon, NH, and colleagues analyzed relationships between delivery and feeding methods and the gut microbiome compositions of a total of 102 infants.

Born at a mean gestational age of approximately 40 weeks, 70 were delivered vaginally and 32 by C-section.

The study results indicated a link between the composition of the gut microbiome and the method of delivery. There were equivalent or greater differences in microbiome composition between infants delivered vaginally and infants delivered by C-section than the differences in composition by feeding method.

Additionally, experts have found breastfeeding, compared with formula feeding, actually has been related to lower risks of asthma, obesity, infection, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. This could be attributed to the evidence that human milk “primes and matures the infant gastrointestinal system, potentially promoting a unique microbial colonization profile that could lead to healthy outcomes.”

While there were no long-term longitudinal studies about the effects of early feeding methods on the microbiome, current research noted early feeding methods could have lasting effects on microbial community structure.

According to the study authors, “Understanding the patterns of microbial colonization of the intestinal tract of healthy infants is critical for determining the health effects of specific alterable early-life risk factors and exposures. To this end, we have identified measurable differences in microbial communities in the intestinal tracts of infants according to their delivery mode and diet, with possible consequences for both short-and long-term health.”