Could introducing a prebiotic-rich kūmara to babies first foods promote ‘good’ gut bugs and boost immune health?

Researchers from the SUN (Seeding through feeding: nourishing the infant) study are seeking Auckland-based parents/caregivers and babies who have not yet started eating solids to join a clinical trial investigating the potential health benefits of kūmara with naturally enhanced prebiotic properties.

For two study participants, taking part has been a rewarding experience and they are encouraging other parents and caregivers to take part.

“I signed my son up to this study because I truly think the gut is central to your overall health. If I can assist with research in this area to improve our little one’s health, as well as make my own life easier, then it’s worth it. The study coordinators are great and are really understanding of life with children. I highly recommend anyone to take part.” Pip, SUN study participant.

“It’s rewarding to help the researchers learn how to give kids a great start in life. My son was in an intervention group and loved the kumara – his face lit up when a sachet was opened each day.” Liv, SUN study participant.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a special type of dietary fibre that feed healthy gut bacteria and are present in high-fibre foods such as vegetables, fruit and wholegrains.

 “We know that the human gut microbiome – the bacteria and other microorganisms living in our gut – plays a major role in our health,” says Professor Clare Wall, who is leading the study. “Babies are born with hardly any gut bacteria. Their gut microbiome develops during their first months of life, influenced by their mode of birth delivery, milk feeding and environment.”

What does being part the SUN study involve?

Participants will be in the study for just over four months.

Researchers will collect body measurements (length and weight), sleep patterns, food intake details, blood, and poo samples from babies at 4-5 months (before they start on solids), at around 8 months and at around 10 months.

 They will also gather poo and breast milk (if breastfeeding) samples, food intake and sleep details from the infant’s mothers.

 “At first I thought the sample collection would be a hassle, but it was actually no big deal, and the support from the study team was excellent. We all benefit from past research that discovered things we now take for granted; this study is an opportunity to give back. If you can participate, please do.” Liv, SUN study participant.