Microbial co-occurrence complicates associations of gut microbiome with US immigration, dietary intake and obesity

Zheng Wang, Mykhaylo Usyk, Yoshiki Vázquez-Baeza, Guo Chong Chen, Carmen R. Isasi, Jessica S. Williams-Nguyen, Simin Hua, Daniel McDonald, Bharat Thyagarajan, Martha L. Daviglus, Jianwen Cai, Kari E. North, Tao Wang, Rob Knight, Robert D. Burk, Robert C. Kaplan, Qibin Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Obesity and related comorbidities are major health concerns among many US immigrant populations. Emerging evidence suggests a potential involvement of the gut microbiome. Here, we evaluated gut microbiome features and their associations with immigration, dietary intake, and obesity in 2640 individuals from a population-based study of US Hispanics/Latinos. Results: The fecal shotgun metagenomics data indicate that greater US exposure is associated with reduced ɑ-diversity, reduced functions of fiber degradation, and alterations in individual taxa, potentially related to a westernized diet. However, a majority of gut bacterial genera show paradoxical associations, being reduced with US exposure and increased with fiber intake, but increased with obesity. The observed paradoxical associations are not explained by host characteristics or variation in bacterial species but might be related to potential microbial co-occurrence, as seen by positive correlations among Roseburia, Prevotella, Dorea, and Coprococcus. In the conditional analysis with mutual adjustment, including all genera associated with both obesity and US exposure in the same model, the positive associations of Roseburia and Prevotella with obesity did not persist, suggesting that their positive associations with obesity might be due to their co-occurrence and correlations with obesity-related taxa, such as Dorea and Coprococcus. Conclusions: Among US Hispanics/Latinos, US exposure is associated with unfavorable gut microbiome profiles for obesity risk, potentially related to westernized diet during acculturation. Microbial co-occurrence could be an important factor to consider in future studies relating individual gut microbiome taxa to environmental factors and host health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number336
JournalGenome biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) is a collaborative study supported by contracts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to the University of North Carolina (HHSN268201300001I/N01-HC-65233), University of Miami (HHSN268201300004I/N01-HC-65234), Albert Einstein College of Medicine (HHSN268201300002I/N01-HC-65235), University of Illinois at Chicago – HHSN268201300003I/N01-HC-65236 Northwestern University), and San Diego State University (HHSN268201300005I/N01-HC-65237). The following Institutes/Centers/Offices have contributed to the HCHS/SOL through a transfer of funds to the NHLBI: National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH Institution-Office of Dietary Supplements. Additional funding for the “Gut Origins of Latino Diabetes” (GOLD) ancillary study to HCHS/SOL was provided by 1R01MD011389-01 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Other funding sources for this study include R01-DK119268, R01-DK120870, the New York Regional Center for Diabetes Translation Research (P30DK111022) from the NIDDK, and R01-HL060712, R01-HL140976, and R01-HL136266 from the NHLBI. None of the funding agencies had a role in the design, conduct, interpretation, or reporting of this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Hispanic population
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbiome
  • Obesity


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