Immigration and Obesity: How Altering the Microbiome Impacts Obesity in Immigrants

Meghan Mulvey

While immigration can come with a number of new challenges, a changing microbiome may also be added to the list of concerns for people immigrating to the United States. The microbiome refers to beneficial microbes that live within human intestines that complete a variety of functions including helping digestion. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Somali, Latino, and Hmong Partnership of Health and Wellness followed individuals that moved from Southeast Asia to the U.S. The study found that after arriving in the United states, immigrants lost the microbiome typical to their native country and developed a microbiome more similar to Americans. While developing nations tend to have more diversity in the microbiome, the United States does not demonstrate this same diversity, which can influence the way foods are digested and how diet impacts overall health. The research also showed a relationship between the degree of westernization of the microbiome and obesity. Moreover, this change was shown to a greater degree in children. The researchers hope that this can shed light on obesity treatments for both immigrants and eventually others as well.

Cell Press. (2018, November 1). Immigration to the United States changes a person's microbiome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 18, 2018 from