The researchers explained acetate played a role in reducing gut inflammation, regulating lipid and glucose metabolism, and providing an energy source.
This finding is significant as prior to this study it had been thought that pre-weaning infants did not have the ability to ferment resistant starch.
“It is the point of conception to the first two years of life that is considered the most important for nutrition and growth,” explained Elissa Mortimer, project manager for Flinders GI Global Health Unit. “United Nations agencies talk about the first 1000 days of life, which covers that period so if you’re stunted at age two then there’s very little that can be done to help reverse the mental and physical effects of stunting.” Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 155 million children under 5 years of age were stunted in 2016.
Another study involving young children actually consuming resistant starch is needed for further evidence, according to Ms. Mortimer. She suggested functional food products supplemented with resistant starch could offer support, but also resistant starch content in common foods such as maize meal porridge could be increased through preparation techniques.
Ms. Mortimer said the next steps in this emerging research involve making an association between the changes in the short-chain fatty acids, the bacterial species, and then the health outcomes such as growth, micronutrient deficiencies, and immune measures. “There are a lot of studies going on in probiotics and prebiotics at the moment so it’s a very interesting time to be working in this area and it is something that the UN agencies are looking at.”