A new study led by researchers at UC Davis shows a significant difference in the gut bacteria between Black women and white women, something that seems to be linked to insulin sensitivity.

The study, published in PLOS One, found that when accounting for differences in BMI, insulin resistance was more widespread in Black women than in white women. Obesity is more prevalent in Black female populations in the U.S. which results in higher type 2 diabetes rates, but even when factoring in for the weight differences, Black women were still found to have higher levels of insulin resistance.

In a press release, professor Candice Price said, “We investigated whether gut microbiome profiles differ between Black and white women and if so, do these race differences persist when accounting for insulin sensitivity status.”

“By characterizing the gut microbiome in Black women, researchers might understand the health disparities in the development of heart and metabolic diseases in this population,” Price added.

For the study, researchers used stool samples from 94 Black women and 74 white women to determine levels of bacteria, comparing the findings to the participants’ race and insulin sensitivity status.

After collecting all the data, they discovered the BMI and fasting insulin were higher in Black women than in white women, so they readjusted their findings to account for obesity differences.

Their findings suggest that gut bacteria may play a role in the development of insulin resistance, and that race and ethnic differences in the gut microbiome are possibly a result of environmental influences as opposed to genetics.

“Despite the enormous research on the gut microbiome, there has not been much focus on how it impacts and is impacted by the social determinants of health and the health disparities in the population. Our findings that gut bacteria differ in Black and white women highlight the potential impact of social determinants of health on gut bacteria,” said professor Jonathan Eisen.

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