New research hopes to unlock an understanding of how the gut and brain interact.
NZMP SureStart™, the global B2B paediatric ingredients brand of Fonterra, announces today it is part of Smarter Lives, a five-year research programme to investigate how nutrition impacts the gut-brain axis.
Smarter Lives is funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and is led by New Zealand research institute, AgResearch. It will investigate how foods influence brain function via the sophisticated communication systems between the gut and the brain.
Fonterra’s Programme Manager Nutrition and Health, James Dekker, says, “The gut is sometimes referred to as ‘the second brain’, and the Smarter Lives research programme will help to explore what is meant by this.
“There has been a significant amount of research into the role of dairy ingredients in cognition and gut health. However, more work is needed to understand the gut-brain axis and what this means for paediatric nutrition.
“For example, we know ingredients like NZMP SureStart™ Lipid 100 may offer both digestive health and cognition benefits, but we don’t fully understand how these two functions correlate.
“Another study has found levels of good gut bacteria were increased in formula fed infants consuming SureStart™ BifidoB 019, showing the ingredient’s effect on gut microbiota . However, we don’t completely understand how ingredients like SureStart™ BifidoB 019 impact behaviours and cognition,” says James.
The research is supported by the Riddet Institute, the Centre for Brain Research and Fonterra Research and Development Centre, in collaboration with international researchers at Flinders University, Illinois University and University College Cork.
“We know the first years of a child’s life are a sensitive period during which the child’s brain is most receptive to the effects of nutrition and its environment. Both are vital for the optimal development of the brain.
“The Smarter Lives research programme will build on existing research and unlock how we can influence the two-way communication between the gut and the brain to help to optimise cognitive development in formula fed infants,” says James.
What is the Gut-Brain Axis?
There is a vast network of neurons, called the enteric nervous system, that line the gut. Research has found that a direct line of two way communication exists between the brain and the enteric nervous system. This means that influences on the gut and its functions, such as diet, can impact signals sent to the brain.
Breast milk is the ideal source of nutrition for infants. Breast milk is the best nutrition you can give to your baby. It’s full of everything a baby needs to grow and develop in a healthy way and gives children the very best start in life. Breast milk substitutes are recognised by the World Health Organisation as safe and nutritious alternatives to breast milk for infants whose mothers cannot, or choose not to, breastfeed.