Cognition and verbal skills in young boys can be improved by certain types of gut bacteria, a study has found.

A team of Canadian researchers have found that baby boys with a large amount of Bacteroidetes in their gut will more likely have a better thought process and an enhanced verbal ability in the future.

The results are based on infant boys only due to girls advancing at a different speed.

Professor Anita Kozyrskyj, from the University of Alberta, said: “It’s well known that female children score higher (at early ages), especially in cognition and language.

“But, when it comes to gut microbial composition, it was the male infants where we saw this obvious connection between the Bacteroidetes and the improved scores.”

She added: “The differences between male and female gut microbiota are very subtle, but we do know from CHILD Cohort Study data that girls at early ages are more likely to have more of these Bacteroidetes.

“So, perhaps most girls have a sufficient number of Bacteroidetes and that’s why they have improved scores over boys.”

The team of academics analysed the bacteria of 400 children and assessed their neural ability. Three groups of similar bacteria were discovered from the children’s faecal samples.

According to the findings, advanced neuro development was much more common amongst young boys with lots of Bacteroidetes in their gut bacteria compared to those without it.

Bacteroidetes make rare metabolites named sphingolipids, which are crucial for the development of neurons in the brain.

Professor Kozyrskyj said: “It makes sense that if you have more of these microbes and they produce more sphingolipids, then you should see some improvement in terms of the formation of neuron connections in our brain and improved scores in cognition and language.”

It was found that Bacteroidetes are less common amongst children who were born through a caesarean.

Breastfeeding, consuming lots of high-fibre foods, having a dog and being frequently exposed to nature are also thought to be beneficial factors for the structure of the gut microbiota in children.

According to the academics, analysing gut bacteria is an effective way to detect neurodevelopment conditions in children.

“Over the first one to two years of life, your brain is very malleable,” said Professor Kozyrskyj. “Now we’re seeing a connection between its malleability and gut microbiota, and I think that is very important.”

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