Differences in gut microbiome by insulin sensitivity status in Black and White women of the National Growth and Health Study (NGHS): A pilot study

PLoS One. 2022 Jan 19;17(1):e0259889. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0259889. eCollection 2022.


The prevalence of overweight and obesity is greatest amongst Black women in the U.S., contributing to disproportionately higher type 2 diabetes prevalence compared to White women. Insulin resistance, independent of body mass index, tends to be greater in Black compared to White women, yet the mechanisms to explain these differences are not completely understood. The gut microbiome is implicated in the pathophysiology of obesity, insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disease. Only two studies have examined race differences in Black and White women, however none characterizing the gut microbiome based on insulin sensitivity by race and sex. Our objective was to determine if gut microbiome profiles differ between Black and White women and if so, determine if these race differences persisted when accounting for insulin sensitivity status. In a pilot cross-sectional analysis, we measured the relative abundance of bacteria in fecal samples collected from a subset of 168 Black (n = 94) and White (n = 74) women of the National Growth and Health Study (NGHS). We conducted analyses by self-identified race and by race plus insulin sensitivity status (e.g. insulin sensitive versus insulin resistant as determined by HOMA-IR). A greater proportion of Black women were classified as IR (50%) compared to White women (30%). Alpha diversity did not differ by race nor by race and insulin sensitivity status. Beta diversity at the family level was significantly different by race (p = 0.033) and by the combination of race plus insulin sensitivity (p = 0.038). Black women, regardless of insulin sensitivity, had a greater relative abundance of the phylum Actinobacteria (p = 0.003), compared to White women. There was an interaction between race and insulin sensitivity for Verrucomicrobia (p = 0.008), where among those with insulin resistance, Black women had four fold higher abundance than White women. At the family level, we observed significant interactions between race and insulin sensitivity for Lachnospiraceae (p = 0.007) and Clostridiales Family XIII (p = 0.01). Our findings suggest that the gut microbiome, particularly lower beta diversity and greater Actinobacteria, one of the most abundant species, may play an important role in driving cardiometabolic health disparities of Black women, indicating an influence of social and environmental factors on the gut microbiome.

MeSH terms

  • Insulin Resistance*