Exploring relationships between food security, nutrition, and the gut microbiome
A study funded by NIEHS sheds light on associations between people’s access to nutritious food and their gut microbiome, or the collection of bacteria inhabiting the digestive system.
Previous research examining links between diet and the gut microbiome focused on food components, such as fiber and fat, or prescribed diets, like the plant-based Mediterranean diet. Few studies have investigated how social factors such as food insecurity — lack of access to healthy food — shape relationships between an individual’s overall nutrition and their gut microbiome.
The researchers mined data on 643 people who had participated in the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin — an ongoing study that collects a range of health data from volunteers — and the Wisconsin Microbiome Study.
They gauged participants’ food security and nutrient intake using the My Nutrition Index, a measure of the nutritional value of a person’s daily diet based on personal characteristics, such as body size. The higher the score, the healthier the diet. Next, the researchers analyzed the microbial composition of each participant’s gut using genetic sequencing data obtained from stool samples.
To determine connections among the gut microbiome, nutrition, and food security levels, the team used a statistical modeling technique called quantile sum regression. Results showed that among people who were food insecure, a higher nutrition score was associated with a wider range of bacteria, including Actinomyces, Desulfovibrio, and Lactobacillus.
The findings may indicate that nutrition is more important in shaping the gut microbiome of food-insecure individuals. In addition, the gut microbiome may play a role in exacerbating persistent disparities in various health outcomes, according to the authors.
Citation: Bixby M, Gennings C, Malecki KMC, Sethi AK, Safdar N, Peppard PE, Eggers S. 2022. Individual nutrition is associated with altered gut microbiome composition for adults with food insecurity. Nutrients 14(16):3407.