A Good Night’s Sleep
Principal Investigator: Emeritus Professor Gerald Tannock, University of Otago
Collaborating Organisations: Victoria University Wellington, Drummond Food Science Advisory Limited
A multidisciplinary team of scientists pursued the concept that new complementary (weaning) foods containing ingredients rich in dietary fibres that promote a particular microbial fermentation in the bowel of infants, will prolong sleep duration. A food containing this mixture of dietary fibres will help satisfy the night-long energy requirements of the child, and lead to fewer night time wakings. While glucose and other easily digested and assimilated macronutrients in food are absorbed quickly from the small bowel, fermentation of dietary fibres by bacteria in the colon takes longer and occurs later, thus providing sustained energy harvest from the diet. The fermentation products (short chain fatty acids) are absorbed from the bowel and have caloric value. The objective of the research was to formulate a weaning food that satisfies regulatory requirements and promotes a sustained release of energy by bowel bacteria, helping to satisfy the energy requirements of the child throughout the night. A range of plant polysaccharides representing the various categories of dietary fibre have been tested in laboratory experiments with defined, multi-component mixtures of bowel bacteria. Potential formulations for foods containing polysaccharides that could promote the desired kind of fermentation to improve sleep patterns have been developed. The concept is supported by the results of a study in which the concentrations of bacterial fermentation products was determined in infant faeces and statistically tested in relation to sleep duration of the infants. The research results support the prospect of the formulation of complementary foods that promote a good night’s sleep and which could be tested in an intervention trial with funding support from the food industry and other sources.
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