We continue to learn that good health begins in the gut. A new nationwide study found that families who have higher socioeconomic statuses may also have better gut health and more diverse microbiomes, leading to better health and immunity overall.

The study was led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, and suggests that a family's socio-economic status (SES) may influence children's composition of the gut microbiome -- the mix of microscopic organisms within the digestive tract.

When it comes to determining socio-economic status, that includes resources like income and occupation, education, living conditions, nutrition and psychosocial stress.

The research found that the SES of families could influence their health throughout their lives. Taking samples of DNA and nucleic acids from a racially diverse group of nearly 600 children up to 15-years-old, they believe this could potentially affect and influence things like blood pressure, height, weight, obesity and even ADHD.

The gut microbiome is key to so much more than your digestive system and even has been called your body's 'second brain'. It plays a pivotal role in body functions that include the immune system, metabolic and inflammatory processes, and the central nervous system.

This study is one of the first that looks at the effects of SES factors in the microbiome of children, and
shows how early intervention may help make a difference on a child's microbiome diversity.

Dr. Candace Lews is a post-doctoral fellow in TGen's Neurogenomics Division, and the study's lead author. She said,"Our results demonstrate that modifiable environmental factors, such as SES, may influence gut microbiome composition at an early age."

When they looked at human DNA samples from saliva and nucleic acid samples from stool, they found that the children parents who had more years of education scored higher on a "latent microbiome factor," defined as higher abundance of Anaerostipes, Eubacterium, Faecalibacterium, and Lachnospiraceae, and lower abundance of Bacteroides.

Faecalibacterium, considered a key biomarker of a healthy gut, produces butyrate. This is an energy source that plays a major role in gut physiology and has several beneficial health effects, including protection against pathogens, modulation of the immune system, and reduction of cancer progression.
According to the study, "Faecalibacterium abundance may be one biological pathway in which early environmental influences shape disease vulnerability through life."

They also looked at other factors like children's age, sex, antibiotic exposure, and whether the child was born vaginally or through C-section.

Dr. Sarah Highlander is a Research Professor in TGen's Pathogen and Microbiome Division and one of the study's authors. She said, "This study tests the associations between family SES with the relative abundance of microbiota type and diversity of infants and children, while controlling for potential genetic associations."

And it makes sense. If you are in a higher SES bracket, you're more likely to be educated on the importance of a microbiome, as well as have the ability to do more to increase your child's gut health.

Here's hoping we pay attention to this info and do what we can to help vulnerable and marginalized populations.