If you've ever watched a yogurt commercial on television, then you'll have heard of the promotion of healthy stomach bacteria. While most people instantly assume that bacteria means an illness, it's actually an essential part of what keeps us healthy. Now, according to scientists at the University of California, Davis, an important strain of bacteria is gradually fading out of existence entirely.
B. infantis is thought to have been the most dominant bacterium in the gut for most of human history, but it's now disappearing from the Western world. The research speculates that this is most likely due to the rise of cesarean births, as well as the overuse of antibiotics, and the common use of infant formula over breastfeeding.
According to this research, nine out of 10 babies in America don't have the bacterium in their stomachs at all. But, the team suspects that in other, less advanced countries like Africa, infants are far more likely to still have it. Professor of Food Science and Technology, Bruce German, believes that B. infantis is important as it keeps other harmful bacteria out of the gut, especially pathogenic bacteria that can lead to chronic inflammation and severe illnesses that can have potentially life-threatening consequences.
Studies reportedly indicate that as babies without B. infantis grow up, they're more prone to allergies and even Type 1 diabetes and obesity. As the rise of certain illnesses has peaked over the last few decades, scientists are now wondering if the climb is due to the lack of this specific bacterium. The researchers were able to identify the bacterium by studying breast milk and certain elements of it that are indigestible to children, including carbohydrates. They found that although the carbohydrates weren't nourishing the baby, they were feeding the bacterium.
While there is currently nothing that moms can do to ensure their baby has B. infantis, Dr. German speculates that in the future, the bacterium may be added to some of our foods to maintain our supply, which is what has been done with iodine.