Modern lifestyles increase the risk of chronic diseases, in part by modifying the microbiome, but the health effects of lifestyles enforced on ethnic minorities are understudied. Lifestyle affects the microbiome early in life, when the microbiome is assembled and the immune system is undergoing maturation.
Moreover, the influence of lifestyle has been separated from genetic and geographic factors by studies of genetically similar populations and ethnically distinct groups living in the same geographic location. The lifestyle of Irish Travellers, an ethnically distinct subpopulation, changed with legislation in 2002 that effectively ended nomadism and altered their living conditions. Comparative metagenomics of gut microbiomes shows that Irish Travellers retain a microbiota similar to that of non-industrialized societies.
Their microbiota is associated with non-dietary factors and is proportionately linked with risk of microbiome-related metabolic disease. Our findings suggest there are microbiome-related public health implications when ethnic minorities are pressured to change lifestyles.
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