Types of Microbiota: Lifestyle and Ethnicity

Research Spotlight: Geography, Ethnicity or Subsistence-Specific Variations in Human Microbiome Composition and Diversity1


The human body is diverse and complicated, even including the microscopic organisms that exist on our bodies, called the microbiota. Researchers have continuously tried to uncover the relationship between these tiny organisms and the human body itself. To delve further into microbiota’s multi-faceted characteristics, a group of researchers examined the differences in the microbiota of individuals from different ethnicities.

Analyzing Studies Aybout the Different Types of Microbiota Across Individuals

A recent review discovered that individuals from a hunter-gatherer community had a more diverse microbiota than Americans. Hunter-gatherers depended on the diverse bacteria to protect themselves from parasites in their diet.5 The study also noted that an individual’s diet and lifestyle had a greater effect on the microbiota than his/her ethnicity. This was confirmed by another study that found Bantu-farming communities had a microbiota more like Pygmy hunter-gatherers. Despite the Bantu-farming communities having a genetic divergence 60,000 years old, their microbiota was more similar to the Pygmy hunter-gatherers than Bantu-fishing communities even though they shared the same genes.6

In another study, the microbiota on the skin of American women were found to be significantly different than that of Tanzanian women, whose skin was exposed to different soils and substances.7 Nevertheless, another study of 214 Malaysian samples found that ethnicity exhibited the greatest effect size on the microbiota compared to diet, lifestyle, demography, and other covariates.8 Notably, this effect was retained even after controlling for all demographic and dietary variables as well as other covariates.8 Given that different ethnic groups often follow similar dietary and lifestyle practices, however, it is challenging to determine which one variable has the greatest effect on the microbiota. That said, researchers agree that ethnicity, lifestyle, and dietary practices all play important roles in the composition of the microbiota.

The Types of Microbiota In Your Body Reflect Your Lifestyle

The review’s findings demonstrate how the microbiota can be related to an individual’s lifestyle, diet, and ethnicity. Furthermore, the review emphasizes the need for microbiota research to be performed within the context of its geographic, ethnic, and lifestyle specific variations. In summary, this review further reiterates that the human species is brilliantly diverse and complicated, and that the different types of microbiota follows that diversity.

Key Takeaways

  • The bacteria inside our bodies dictate our bodily processes
  • Knowing how bacteria change from person to person can impact how we approach bacteria-related diseases
  • An individual’s lifestyle, diet, and ethnicity can all affect the microbiota
  • Genetics play less of a role in the microbiota than lifestyle
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  1. Gupta VK, Paul S, Dutta C. Geography, Ethnicity or Subsistence-Specific Variations in Human Microbiome Composition and Diversity. Front Microbiol. 2017;8:1162. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.01162
  2. Depommier C, Everard A, Druart C, et al. Supplementation with Akkermansia muciniphila in overweight and obese human volunteers: a proof-of-concept exploratory study. Nat Med. 2019;25(7):1096-1103. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0495-2
  3. Valles-Colomer M, Falony G, Darzi Y, et al. The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression. Nat Microbiol. 2019;4(4):623-632. doi:10.1038/s41564-018-0337-x
  4. Sanna S, van Zuydam NR, Mahajan A, et al. Causal relationships among the gut microbiome, short-chain fatty acids and metabolic diseases. Nat Genet. 2019;51(4):600-605. doi:10.1038/s41588-019-0350-x
  5. Schnorr SL, Candela M, Rampelli S, et al. Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers. Nat Commun. 2014;5(1):3654. doi:10.1038/ncomms4654
  6. Morton ER, Lynch J, Froment A, et al. Variation in Rural African Gut Microbiota Is Strongly Correlated with Colonization by Entamoeba and Subsistence. PLoS Genet. 2015;11(11):e1005658. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005658
  7. Blaser MJ, Dominguez-Bello MG, Contreras M, et al. Distinct cutaneous bacterial assemblages in a sampling of South American Amerindians and US residents. ISME J. 2013;7(1):85-95. doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.81
  8. Dwiyanto J, Hussain MH, Reidpath D, et al. Ethnicity influences the gut microbiota of individuals sharing a geographical location: a cross-sectional study from a middle-income country. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):2618. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-82311-3