Impact of early events and lifestyle on the gut microbiota and metabolic phenotypes in young school-age children

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Zhong H, Penders J, Shi Z, Ren H, Cai K, Fang C, Ding Q, Thijs C, Blaak EE, Stehouwer CDA, Xu X,  et al.

Microbiome. 2019 Jan 4;7(1):2

COMMENT: In this work, the authors investigate how early events and lifestyle during childhood affect in the development of the gut microbiota.

We examined the composition and functional potential of the gut microbiota of 281 Dutch children at early school-age (6–9 years of age) and revealed the impact of early events and pre-school dietary patterns on the gut microbiota of children.

They used shotgun metagenomic sequencing and analyzed the results against 45 phenotypic parameters classified into four categories: early events, pre-school lifestyle, blood parameters, and anthropometric measurements. In this study, the authors used 62 metagenomic datasets from healthy Dutch adults for their age-based comparison.


Comparisons further revealed that children were enriched in bacteria from the phylum Bacteroidetes including Bacteroides and Prevotella, while Firmicutes assigned to the genera Eubacterium, Clostridium, Dorea, and Coprococcus were more abundant in adults.

Three enterotypes were identified and found to be driven by a relatively high abundance of the genera Bacteroides (enterotype 1 (E1), n = 143), Prevotella (enterotype 2 (E2), n = 74), and Bifidobacterium (enterotype 3 (E3), n = 64).

Based on the entire population of children, early events including breastfeeding duration, the pre-school lifestyle including intake of plant-based protein and dietary fiber were significantly correlated with the microbial composition at 6–9 years of age.

The children in E3 who did not exhibit a negative correlation between pre-school dietary lifestyle of plant-based protein and dietary fiber intake and blood insulin levels at school-age exhibited a lower potential for complex carbohydrate metabolism.


In conclusion, this study reveals important characteristics of the gut microbial structure and function in healthy early school-age.

...our findings suggest that distinct metabolic responses to dietary lifestyle are strongly governed by the composition and functional potentials of the gut microbiota, implying that stratification of children according to gut microbiota enterotypes may well be included in future investigations on the relationship between dietary intake and metabolic health in children.


Carmen Martín