Teagasc research can benefit infant formula producers, says expert

Infant formula producers can capitalise on Teagasc research into how the design of food ingredients and supplements can boost consumer health.

Dr Paul Ross, head of the Teagasc food research programme, says studies into human microbiota have the potential to transform much of the thinking on basic human nutrition, gut health and disease prevention.

Prof Paul O’Toole is leading a team of UCC/ Teagasc scientists on one project, called Eldermet, looking at faecal microbiota from elderly people. A second study, called Infantmet, led by Prof Catherine Stanton at Teagasc Moorepark, studies how breast feeding creates gut microbiota in early life.

Taken together these data suggest that diet can programme the gut microbiota, boosting health status. The Teagasc teams believe this research has potential to give the Irish food industry a competitive advantage in the future design of food ingredients and supplements.

“Research is starting to show that the food we eat has a huge bearing on the composition of this collective and also that the profile of the collection of bacteria can be associated with a person’s health status,” said Dr Ross, who is also principal investigator at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, Teagasc, Food Research Centre, Moorepark.

“This study will be of great interest to our Infant Formula industry which produces c.12% of global exports in this sector. From a national perspective, Ireland is perfectly positioned to capture and capitalise on what is one of the most exciting areas in biological research as the country expands its agri-food industry to produce a greater variety of value-added food products to benefit the health of the modern consumer.”

The Eldermet project has studied faecal microbiota from elderly people in different residences including community, day-hospital, rehabilitation or long-term residential care locations. This study found that the microbiota correlated with the residence location.

“The results demonstrated that the individual microbiota of people in long-stay care was significantly less diverse than those that resided in the community,” said Dr Ross. “In addition, these subjects were also clustered by diet by the same residence location and microbiota groupings. “Interestingly, the separation of microbiota composition correlated significantly with health parameters in these individuals including measures of frailty, co-morbidity, nutritional status, markers of inflammation and with metabolites in faecal water.”

The human body contains more than ten times the amount of bacterial cells as human cells. These bacteria — now collectively called the gut microbiota — number in their trillions.


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