Despite having lower body mass indices (BMI), East Asians (EA) have worse metabolic health outcomes compared to other ethnic groups.
It is unknown if the gut microbiota (microorganisms living in the gut) may be a factor in these health disparities. A recent study of 46 lean and obese EA and White (W) participants showed that gut microbiota richness and structure were significantly different between ethnic groups.
Variations in nutritional intake could not account for these differences between EA and W participants. When compared to those with higher BMI, those with lower BMI showed a more significant difference in terms of gut microbiota between ethnic groups. This study also contends that even within a specific geographical area, consistent, long-lasting microbiological fingerprints of ethnicity persist.
Consistent with the general hypothesis that ethnicity-associated differences in the gut microbiota could be a reason why the risk of metabolic disease differs between ethnic groups, this study also had some other interesting findings. It is predicted that the lean EA population’s gut microbiomes would increase the risks of obesity or metabolic syndrome.
Several microbiomes in EA participants were detected, including increased Firmicutes (Basolo et al., 2020; Bisanz et al., 2019) and decreased A. Muciniphila (Depommier et al., 2019; Plovier et al., 2017) for example, which have been previously linked to obesity and its associated metabolic disorders. However, EA participants also showed larger concentrations of gut bacteria such as Bacteroides and Bacteroidota, which have been associated with better metabolic health.
These findings provide a foundation for understanding the mechanisms through which the gut microbiome may impact different health outcomes between ethnic groups but larger studies are required to provide further insight.