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The impact of immigration status on gut microbial diversity and risk for cardiovascular disease

he microbiome, the microbes - bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses - living inside the human intestinal track, have been shown to impact both disease and health. In the last decade, there has been considerable research demonstrating that its composition is important in the development of metabolic diseases like hypertension, obesity,  heart disease, and diabetes. At the same time, studies have also shown that gut microbes vary across different populations and the composition of the microbiome is largely shaped by cultural factors like diet, nutrition, and physical activity. Researchers have noted that not only do immigrants from different countries have different microbes in their intestines, but they also have different rates of diseases impacted by the microbiome. Research for instance, has shown that some Asian immigrants have intestinal bacteria better suited to processing carbohydrates rather than meat when they arrive in the US, but these microbes are replaced over time with bacteria more common to the general US population. At the same time, rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes also increase.

This raises the question about whether lifestyle and dietary factors among immigrants might be shaping the composition of the intestinal microbe populations and protecting them against heart disease. This pilot study will compare the intestinal microbes of recent Hispanic immigrants, 2nd generation Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites. Since first-generation Hispanics also have been shown to have lower rates of CVD, we hope to better understand whether the bacteria in their gut might be lowering their heart disease risk. This knowledge may help us to design interventions that will lower heart disease in the general population.

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