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ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Research Project #436283

Research Project: Intestinal Microbiome and Childhood Feeding

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

2019 Annual Report

Objective 1: Compare the effects of inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides against a maltodextrin placebo in obese children, using a double-blind randomized controlled trial, to study weight loss, fecal microbiota and their functions. Objective 2: Among children from low-to-middle income countries with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) to: a) longitudinally characterize epigenomic, and metabolomic responses to SAM treatment; b) assess amino acid content of hair samples taken before, during, and after therapy to identify biochemical markers of nutritional status and therapeutic response, and; c) investigate the role of a newly identified hormone – Asprosin – in the recovery of satiety during SAM refeeding therapy by integrating serial measurements in plasma with clinical nutritional data on caloric intake and weight recovery. Objective 3: Conduct a clinical trial adding black-eyed peas to diets of young children at risk for stunting. Determine efficacy in reducing stunting and analyze fecal sample to understand potential mechanisms by which the food supplement ameliorates stunting. Assess dietary compliance in a novel, quantitative manner using a urinary biomarker for black eyed peas. Currently quercetin and ferulic acid are candidates for this biomarker.

A number of pressing nutritional issues face the US and other nations. Over 20% of children throughout the world are obese with even more children overweight; both associated with diabetes and heart disease. Given the importance of the gut bacteria in our general health and weight control, we will test via various sample analyses a dietary supplement (prebiotic) that selectively enhances the growth and activity of bacteria associated with leanness. We anticipate that this prebiotic will reduce the risk of overweight and obesity in children. At the opposite end of the nutritional spectrum, severe acute malnutrition directly contributes to deaths of more than a million children under 5 yrs. old each year globally. There is a lack of molecular and metabolic biomarkers of existing nutritional therapy limiting the ability to appropriately and adequately assess the utility of dietary supplementation. We will perform serial measures of DNA methylation and tissue metabolites to identify suitable biomarkers of nutritional deficit and recovery. In addition, stunting affects about 23% of all children under 5 years of age globally. Most of these children are in Africa and south Asia and the consequences include lower economic productivity, decreased cognition and more diabetes and hypertension. Similar to obesity, the microbiome is implicated as a cause of stunting and new treatments are needed. We will determine using biomarker analysis if legume supplements can extend their benefits to children in West Africa.

Progress Report
This project was recently certified at the end of June 2019 and work towards these endeavors are now being pursued.