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Diet & lifestyle, not genetics, influence our gut microbiome 

Is it due to your genes that you are overweight, or to the way you eat and move? This is one of the many examples that refers to the ongoing nature versus nurture debate. Moreover, the question of nature vs nurture also extends to our microbiome, and according to a recent publication, lifestyle rather than genetics has a defining impact on shaping gut microbiome composition in healthy individuals (1).

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Microbiome central key in treatment disease

This is very interesting, considering the fact that our gut microbiome is a major contributing factor in health & disease (2). According to the author of the above-mentioned study, Daphna Rothschild, the microbiome may hold the key in treatments of diseases. And although more research needs to be done, the researchers think that if we change our diet (for example by taking probiotics – Editor) and lifestyle, we can alter our microbiome and consequently our health.


Microbiome as motivation 

The study by Rothschild was performed by the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, and the Department of Molecular Cell Biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel). It was published in the high-end scientific journal Nature.


The motivation for this study was that, although previous research shows that host genetics are associated with the abundance of several gut bacterial taxa, the degree to which human genetics shape gut microbiome composition remained elusive.


From Ashkenazi to Yeminite  

The scientists studied a cohort of 1,046 healthy Israeli adults of different populations (Ashkenazi (n = 508), North African (n = 64), Middle Eastern (n = 34), Sephardi (n = 19), Yemenite (n = 13) and ‘mixed/other’(n = 408)), who lived in broadly the same environment and had more or less similar lifestyles. They collected a wide variety of data, varying from weight and height, answers to food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires to stool samples on which they performed DNA-technologies. To analyze these data they used a range of statistical analyses and found that the gut microbiome is not significantly associated with genetic background (only a meagre 2% of the differences between the subjects could be explained by genetics).


Comparing households 

To provide direct evidence that the microbiome is largely shaped by environmental factors, they compared the microbiomes of genetically unrelated individuals who share a household and found that there is significant similarity between them. They further demonstrate that over 20% of the microbiome variability between persons is associated with factors related to diet, drugs, weight and height. 


These findings led to the conclusion that the environment has a substantially greater role than host genetics in shaping the human gut microbiome, and also provide further evidence of the importance of the connection between a microbiome and health. 

                                                       Read the publication 





1. Rothschild D et al. Environment dominates over host genetics in shaping human gut microbiotaNature. 2018; 555(7695):210-5.

2. de Vos WM, de Vos EA. Role of the intestinal microbiome in health and disease: from correlation to causation. Nutr Rev 2012;70 Suppl 1:S45-56.


Credits picture: Dudarev Mihail/



Diet and lifestyle, not genetics, influence our gut microbiome & health. This is mentioned in a study of Daphna Rothschild from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

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