Fiber-boosted formula for piglets shows promise in battle against infant diarrhea

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Adding fiber to the diet for bowel health is standard advice for adults. Such wisdom also may benefit babies, say researchers who are testing the impact of fiber added to milk-replacement formulas of newborn piglets.

In the June issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the researchers reported that piglets that consumed formula with moderate levels of fermentable fiber tolerated an induced infection of Salmonella typhimurium much better than those fed a plain control formula or one with a non-fermentable fiber.

The ongoing research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is targeting a $2 billion-a-year, sometimes fatal problem -- acute diarrhea -- that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accounts for about 9 percent of all hospitalizations of children under age 5 in the United States annually. While experts encourage mothers to breast feed their infants to stimulate natural protection against a multitude of diseases, the vast majority of infants are fed infant formulas.

"We know that breast milk is important because it sets up microbiota in the colon and fights off infections," said Kelly Tappenden, professor of food science and human nutrition and principal investigator of the research. "Infants are most susceptible to diarrhea diseases compared to other segments of the population. Many such diseases peak in the first year of life. We are interested in trying to prevent diarrhea-related diseases in babies. Our hope is that infant formulas can be enhanced to provide much of the same activity that a mother's milk will do."

Tappenden and colleagues divided 48 two-day-old piglets into four groups fed in equal amounts every 12 hours. The gastrointestinal tract and general development of neonatal piglets are similar to that of human infants born about eight weeks early.

The more rapid growth rate of the piglets allows researchers to observe changes at a rapid pace. A contro

Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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