Effects of Early Iron Exposure on the Gut Microbiota Development in Newborn Infants

Colonization of the infant gut with bacteria occurs in a predictable way. Disturbance of the normal gut microbial colonization process by may result in long-term negative health impacts. Older infants with high iron intake had lower amounts of beneficial bacteria and higher abundance of pathogenic bacteria. Unabsorbed iron in the gut promotes the growth of bacteria that may cause disease or illness because iron is an essential nutrient for many pathogenic gut bacteria. However, the effect of high iron intake in newborns is not well studied.

Despite these risks, the vast majority of commercial infant formulas in the United States are fortified with more than 20 times as much iron as in human milk, only 5-10% of which is absorbed. In the first 4-6 months of life, healthy term infants are at low risk for iron deficiency due to substantial iron endowment accrued during the third trimester and birth.

Therefore, infant formulas with lower iron content may support development of a healthy microbiome, cause less gut inflammation, and still promote adequate growth and prevention of iron deficiency. The overall objective of this randomized control trial is to determine the impact of high versus moderate iron exposure in formula-fed infants during the early postnatal months.

The results of this study have the potential to alter the current U.S. paradigm for meeting infant iron requirements, which has not been adjusted in over 20 years and may impact the earliest influences on the developing microbiome and immune system for millions of infants.

About the Research Team

This project is led by Principal Investigator Stephanie Gilley, MD, PhD. She is a mom, board-certified pediatrician, certified physician nutrition specialist, Ph.D. scientist, and assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in the section of pediatric nutrition.

Her research interests are focused on improving pediatric nutritional care to promote health across the entire lifespan. In particular, she applies her clinical practice and expert insights to explore how different feeding methods and exposures may influence outcomes through gut bacteria. She loves being outdoors with her family in Colorado, cooking, and water sports.

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We are accepting pre-proposals

Let’s build the future of infant feeding together

Bobbie Labs is making an investment in scientific research by offering grants to examine the nutritional, social, and environmental questions related to infant feeding. Our Request for Proposals (RFP) is now open, and we invite applicants to submit their funding request for projects, such as clinical trials, observational studies, systematic review or meta-analysis, nutrient profiling, or discovery work.

Deadline: April 14, 2023

About Our Grant
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