The effect of protective nutrients on mucosal defense in the immature intestine

Acta Paediatr Suppl. 2005 Oct;94(449):74-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2005.tb02159.x.


Oral nutrition plays a dual role in the gut, providing nutrition to the body while affecting the function of the gastrointestinal tract. The exposure of the gut to food antigens, in the form of either beneficial or harmful nutritional substances, contributes to a vast array of physiological and pathologic gastrointestinal responses with secondary systemic implications. The immune system of the gastrointestinal tract is always involved in the first line of defense, and its actions are particularly important in the early period of life as maturation takes place. From maturation, a balance ensues in the regulatory mechanism of host defense, ultimately leading to either tolerance or immune reaction. This paper emphasizes how some nutrients may beneficially affect the gastrointestinal immune system's maturation in both term and especially premature neonates.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • CD8 Antigens / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Enterocytes / immunology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A* / immunology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Intestine, Small / immunology
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology
  • Mucous Membrane / microbiology
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Peyer's Patches / immunology


  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Immunoglobulin A