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Study Suggests Nursing Mother's Diet Can Impact Offspring's Gut Microbiome

The offspring of nursing mice fed a low-fiber diet experience permanent changes to their gut microbiomes that cause inflammation and obesity, according to a study appearing this week in Cell Host and Microbe. The findings suggest that a lactating mother's diet can play an important role in the intestinal and metabolic health of her offspring. Given that both dietary fiber intake and the microbes acquired early in life are known to influence gut microbiota, a group of Georgia State University researchers set out to investigate whether alterations in maternal diet during lactation could have lasting effects on the gut microbiome and health status of offspring. In the study, they fed nursing mother mice either a fiber-rich, grain-based chow typically used to maintain mice in biomedical research or low-fiber food. The nursing pups were then weaned and their gut microbiomes analyzed. The investigators find that pups nursed by mothers on the low-fiber diet exhibited lasting microbiota dysbiosis and a propensity for obesity even if they were given fiber-rich diets. "Thus, maternal diet is a critical long-lasting determinant of offspring microbiota composition, impacting gut health and proneness to obesity and its associated disorders," the authors write.