Early diet impacts infant rhesus gut microbiome, immunity, and metabolism

Aifric O'Sullivan, Xuan He, Elizabeth M S McNiven, Neill W. Haggarty, Bo Lönnerdal, Carolyn M. Slupsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Epidemiological research has indicated a relationship between infant formula feeding and increased risk of chronic diseases later in life including obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The present study used an infant rhesus monkey model to compare the comprehensive metabolic implications of formula- and breast-feeding practices using NMR spectroscopy to characterize metabolite fingerprints from urine and serum, in combination with anthropometric measurements, fecal microbial profiling, and cytokine measurements. Here we show that formula-fed infants are larger than their breast-fed counterparts and have a different gut microbiome that includes higher levels of bacteria from the Ruminococcus genus and lower levels of bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus. In addition, formula-fed infants have higher serum insulin coupled with higher amino acid levels, while amino acid degradation products were higher in breast-fed infants. Increases in serum and urine galactose and urine galactitol were observed in the second month of life in formula-fed infants, along with higher levels of TNFα, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-4, and other cytokines and growth factors at week 4. These results demonstrate that metabolic and gut microbiome development of formula-fed infants is different from breast-fed infants and that the choice of infant feeding may hold future health consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2833-2845
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2013


  • breast feeding
  • formula feeding
  • gut microbiota
  • immune system
  • infant
  • metabolism
  • metabolomics
  • microbiome
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • nutrition
  • pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry(all)


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