Individual Nutrition Is Associated with Altered Gut Microbiome Composition for Adults with Food Insecurity

Moira Bixby, Chris Gennings, Kristen M.C. Malecki, Ajay K. Sethi, Nasia Safdar, Paul E. Peppard, Shoshannah Eggers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Diet is widely recognized as a key contributor to human gut microbiome composition and function. However, overall nutrition can be difficult to compare across a population with varying diets. Moreover, the role of food security in the relationship with overall nutrition and the gut microbiome is unclear. This study aims to investigate the association between personalized nutrition scores, variation in the adult gut microbiome, and modification by food insecurity. The data originate from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Microbiome Study. Individual nutrition scores were assessed using My Nutrition Index (MNI), calculated using data from food frequency questionnaires, and additional health history and demographic surveys. Food security and covariate data were measured through self-reported questionnaires. The gut microbiome was assessed using 16S amplicon sequencing of DNA extracted from stool samples. Associations, adjusted for confounding and interaction by food security, were estimated using Weighted Quantile Sum (WQS) regression models with Random Subset and Repeated Holdout extensions (WQSRSRH), with bacterial taxa used as components in the weighted index. Of 643 participants, the average MNI was 66.5 (SD = 31.9), and 22.8% of participants were food insecure. Increased MNI was significantly associated with altered gut microbial composition (β = 2.56, 95% CI = 0.52–4.61), with Ruminococcus, Oscillospira, and Blautia among the most heavily weighted of the 21 genera associated with the MNI score. In the stratified interaction WQSRSRH models, the bacterial taxa most heavily weighted in the association with MNI differed by food security, but the level of association between MNI and the gut microbiome was not significantly different. More bacterial genera are important in the association with higher nutrition scores for people with food insecurity versus food security, including Streptococcus, Parabacteroides Faecalibacterium, and Desulfovibrio. Individual nutrition scores are associated with differences in adult gut microbiome composition. The bacterial taxa most associated with nutrition vary by level of food security. While further investigation is needed, results showed a higher nutrition score was associated with a wider range of bacterial taxa for food insecure vs. secure, suggesting nutritional quality in food insecure individuals is important in maintaining health and reducing disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3407
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • food insecurity
  • gut microbiome
  • individual nutrition score
  • mixture modeling


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