Voluntary caloric restriction (e.g., eating disorders) often results in alterations in the gut microbiota composition and function. However, these findings may not translate to food insecurity, where an individual experiences inconsistent access to healthy food options. In this study we compared the fecal microbiome and metabolome of racially and ethnically diverse first year college students (n = 60) experiencing different levels of food access. Students were dichotomized into food secure (FS) and food insecure (FI) groups using a validated, 2-question screener assessing food security status over the previous 30 days. Fecal samples were collected up to 5 days post survey-completion. Gut microbiome and metabolome were established using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, targeted liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. FI students experienced significantly greater microbial diversity with increased abundance of Enterobacteriaceae and Eisenbergiella, while FS students had greater abundance of Megasphaera and Holdemanella. Metabolites related to energy transfer and gut–brain-axis communication (picolinic acid, phosphocreatine, 2-pyrrolidinone) were elevated in FI students (q < 0.05). These findings suggest that food insecurity is associated with differential gut microbial and metabolite composition for which the future implications are unknown. Further work is needed to elucidate the longitudinal metabolic effects of food insecurity and how gut microbes influence metabolic outcomes.
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