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Over the last decade, advancement in sampling technology has allowed for a more in-depth analysis of the human colonic gut microbiota. With these sampling advancements links between non-communicable diseases, like obesity, and the microbiome is emerging. The exact modulators of the microbiome are yet to be fully elucidated. However, diet and long-term dietary patterns are continuously reported as having an effect on the microbial species and diversity in the gut. The gut microbiota has also been shown to change during pregnancy. The aim of this study is to fully explore the links between maternal diet during pregnancy and maternal microbiome.
111 women were recruited in early pregnancy (16 weeks’ gestation) as they presented for antenatal care in a tertiary level maternity unit. Microbial data were extracted from stool samples and subjected to metagenomic shotgun sequencing. Dietary data were collected using a three-day food diary. Dietary analysis was conducted using Nutritics Research Edition v4.315. The vegan package was used to calculate alpha diversity.
This analysis indicated that higher intakes of lauric acid (found in coconut milk and oil) during pregnancy increased microbiota alpha diversity (p=0.034). Intakes of malic acid (found in citrus fruits) and vitamin E decreased alpha diversity (p=0.034, 0.018). Fruit juices were shown to decrease alpha diversity during pregnancy (p=0.022) and specialised snacks (such as health bars) were found to increase diversity (p=0.041). There was also a trend for trans fats towards a decrease in alpha diversity (p=0.058).
This study found foods high in sugar (fruit juices) decreased alpha diversity. Decreased diversity is linked to obesity and inflammatory diseases. Maternal diet is known to influence long-term infant health outcome. Therefore diet (through manipulation of the microbiome) may have potential in clinical application.