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



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.


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.


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.

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