Children’s gut health at risk from air pollution

The link between what we breath in and the state of an adult’s stomach is understood, but new research has shone a light on the vulnerability of infants.

Air pollution can lead to negative changes in the gut health of young children during their first six years of life, according to a new study published in the journal, Gut Microbes

baby girl wearing grey dress and white socks

The result is a heightened risk of developing allergies and diabetes, with infants exposed to high levels of air pollution also prone to obesity and slower brain development, with weaker immune systems also among a range of potential problematic long-term outcomes. Traffic, wildfire smoke, and industry emissions are all believed to directly contribute to these serious later life conditions. 

‘Overall, we saw that ambient air pollution exposure was associated with a more inflammatory gut-microbial profile, which may contribute to a whole host of future adverse health outcomes,’ said first author Maximilian Bailey, an Integrative Psychology master’s graduate currently at Stanford University, California. ‘The microbiome plays a role in nearly every physiological process in the body, and the environment that develops in those first few years of life sticks with you.’

Infants are likely more vulnerable to the impact of air pollution on the gut because they have much lower lung capacity and therefore breath faster, making it even more important that understandings of the relationship between guts and air pollution continue to improve. ‘Breast milk is a fantastic way to develop a healthy microbiome and may help offset some of adverse effects from environmental exposures,’ Bailey added.

Read the original study here. Elsewhere, studies have shown that air pollution is changing brain connectivity in young children and impeding cognitive development

Image: Humphrey Muleba



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top