The Relationship Between Diet, Gut Microbiota, and Serum Metabolome of South Asian Infants at 1 Year Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background

    Diet is known to affect the gut microbiota and the serum metabolome in adults, but this has not been fully explored in infants. Infancy is an important developmental period that may influence a person's long-term health. Infant development can be affected by diet, which also interacts with the developing gut microbiota.


    This study aimed to explore the associations between diet, the gut microbiota, and the serum metabolome of 1-y-old infants with the overarching goal of identifying serum biomarkers of diet and/or the gut microbiota.


    We derived dietary patterns of 1-y-old infants (n = 182) participating in the Canadian South Asian Birth Cohort (START) study. We compared gut microbiota α-diversity and β-diversity and taxa relative abundance from 16S rRNA gene profiles with dietary patterns (PERMANOVA, Envfit) and investigated diet-serum metabolite associations using a multivariate analysis (partial least squares-discriminant analysis) and univariate analysis (t test). We explored the effect of nondietary factors on diet-serum metabolite relationships by incorporating diet, the gut microbiota, and maternal, perinatal, and infant characteristics in a multivariable forward stepwise regression. We replicated this analysis in White European infants, from the CHILD Cohort Study (n = 81).


    A dietary pattern characterized by formula consumption and negatively associated with breastfeeding most strongly predicted variation in the gut microbiota (R2 = 0.109) and serum metabolome (R2 = 0.547). Breastfed participants showed higher abundance of microbes from the genera Bifidobacterium (3.29 log2-fold) and Lactobacillus (7.93 log2-fold) and higher median concentrations of the metabolites S-methylcysteine (1.38 μM) and tryptophan betaine (0.43 μM) than nonbreastfed participants. Formula consuming infants showed higher median concentrations of branched-chain/aromatic amino acids (average 48.3 μM) than non-formula-consuming infants.


    Formula consumption and breastfeeding most strongly predicted the serum metabolites of 1-y-old infants, even when the gut microbiota, solid food consumption, and other covariates were considered.

publication date

  • February 2023