a1 Food Microbial Sciences Unit, School of Food Biosciences, The University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 226, Reading RG6 6AP, UK
a2 Axiou 60, Thrakomakedones, 13676 Attiki, Greece
Diet, among other environmental and genetic factors, is currently recognised to have an important role in health and disease. There is increasing evidence that the human colonic microbiota can contribute positively towards host nutrition and health. As such, dietary modulation has been proposed as important for improved gut health, especially during the highly sensitive stage of infancy. Differences in gut microflora composition and incidence of infection occur between breast- and formula-fed infants. Human milk components that cannot be duplicated in infant formulae could possibly account for these differences. However, various functional food ingredients such as oligosaccharides, prebiotics, proteins and probiotics could effect a beneficial modification in the composition and activities of gut microflora of infants. The aim of the present review is to describe existing knowledge on the composition and metabolic activities of the gastrointestinal microflora of human infants and discuss various possibilities and opportunities for its nutritional modulation.