Resistant starch is actively fermented by infant faecal microbiota and increases microbial diversity
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In adults, fermentation of high amylose maize starch (HAMS), a resistant starch (RS), has a prebiotic effect. Were such a capacity to exist in infants, intake of RS might programme the gut microbiota during a critical developmental period. This study aimed to determine if infant faecal inocula possess the capacity to ferment HAMS or acetylated-HAMS (HAMSA) and characterise associated changes to microbial composition. Faecal samples were collected from 17 healthy infants at two timepoints: Preweaning and within 10 weeks of first solids. Fermentation was assessed using in vitro batch fermentation. Following 24 h incubation, pH, short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production and microbial composition were compared to parallel control incubations. In preweaning infants, there was a significant decrease at 24 h in pH between control and HAMS incubations and a significant increase in the production of total SCFAs, indicating fermentation. Fermentation of HAMS increased further following commencement of solids. Fermentation of RS with weaning faecal inocula increased Shannon s diversity index (H) and was associated with increased abundance of Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides. In conclusion, the faecal inocula from infants is capable of RS fermentation, independent of stage of weaning, but introduction of solids increases this fermentation capacity. RS may thus function as a novel infant prebiotic.
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