Relevance of pre- and postnatal nutrition to development and interplay between the microbiota and metabolic and immune systems

Alma J. Nauta, Kaouther Ben Amor, Jan Knol, Johan Garssen, E.M. Van Der Beek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Early-life programming is becoming an established concept that states that the environment during early development affects health and disease in adulthood, probably via epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone modifications, RNA silencing, or a combination. Accumulating evidence suggests that nutrition during pregnancy and early postnatal life is one of the most important environmental cues that programs microbiological, metabolic, and immunologic development. The neonatal period is crucial for the early microbial colonization of the almost sterile gastrointestinal tract of the newborn infant. These first colonizers play an important role in host health because they are involved in nutritional, immunologic, and physiologic functions. Evidence from animal and human studies indicates that the composition of the gut microbiota has an effect on body composition, digestion, and metabolic homeostasis. Furthermore, the functionality of the metabolism develops after birth when the newborn is first exposed to nutrition via the gastrointestinal tract. Exposure to environmental microbial components is also suggested to have a key role in the maturation process of the immune system, and in turn the immune system shapes the composition of the microbiota. Therefore, the use of nutritional strategies to program the microbiota composition to favor a more beneficial bacterial population and to support the development of the metabolic and immune systems may provide a good opportunity to prevent later health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and allergy. © 2013 American Society for Nutrition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586S-593S
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


  • arachidonic acid
  • essential fatty acid
  • lactoferrin
  • linoleic acid
  • peroxisome proliferator activated receptor alpha
  • prebiotic agent
  • probiotic agent
  • synbiotic agent
  • transcription factor PDX 1
  • adipogenesis
  • adipose tissue
  • allergy
  • antibiotic associated diarrhea
  • antibiotic therapy
  • article
  • atopic dermatitis
  • atopy
  • bacterial cell
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • bioavailability
  • birth
  • birth weight
  • body composition
  • body fat
  • body weight
  • brain development
  • carbohydrate metabolism
  • cell proliferation
  • child development
  • developmental stage
  • diet supplementation
  • digestion
  • DNA methylation
  • dyslipidemia
  • eczema
  • energy balance
  • energy expenditure
  • environmental change
  • environmental exposure
  • environmental factor
  • Escherichia coli
  • fat intake
  • fatty acid oxidation
  • gastrointestinal tract
  • gestational age
  • homeostasis
  • host pathogen interaction
  • human
  • immune response
  • immune system
  • immunocompetent cell
  • infection
  • infectious diarrhea
  • inflammation
  • insulin sensitivity
  • intestine flora
  • lipid metabolism
  • lipid storage
  • maternal obesity
  • metabolic disorder
  • microbial colonization
  • microflora
  • newborn period
  • nonhuman
  • obesity
  • perinatal development
  • perinatal period
  • physical activity
  • postnatal growth
  • prematurity
  • prenatal period
  • proadipocyte
  • protein expression
  • regulatory T lymphocyte
  • Staphylococcus
  • Th1 cell
  • third trimester pregnancy
  • weight gain


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