Exposure to air pollution in the first six months of life impacts a child’s gut microbiota in ways that could increase risk of allergies, obesity and diabetes, and even influence physiological development
This study provides the first evidence of significant associations between exposure to air pollution and the composition of the infant gut microbiota, which may have important implications for future infant health and development.
In a recent study published in Gut Microbes, a group of researchers led by Tanya L. Alderete at the Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, examined 103 Latino infants that were under 6 months on average and who were exposed to ambient air pollution (AAP).
The results show that increased exposure to air pollution in the first 6 months of life was associated with the presence of several infant gut bacterial taxa belonging to the Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria phyla. Many of the infant gut bacterial taxa that were found to be associated with postnatal air pollution exposure have previously been linked with adverse health outcomes such as systemic inflammation, gastroenteritis, multiple sclerosis, and mental health disorders. Furthermore, several of the identified taxa are involved in the production of important gut microbial-derived metabolites that play an integral role in human physiology. These results, along with other epidemiological and animal studies, suggest that exposure to air pollutants may impact the gut microbiome in early life, which may have implications for human development, health, and physiology.
You might not think this applies to you, however, these findings have significant public health relevance since 99% of the world’s population is estimated to live in areas where air quality guidelines are not met. It is now more than ever that we need to focus on the environment, so our kids can grow and live a long and healthy life.