Background: Modifiable lifestyle factors (e.g. dietary intake and physical activity) are important contributors to weight gain during college. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether associations exist between body mass index, physical activity, screen time, dietary consumption (fat, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber), and gut microbial diversity during the first year of college. Racially/ethnically diverse college students (n = 82; 61.0% non-white) at a large Southwestern university completed self-reported physical activity and 24-h recall dietary assessments, height and weight measurements, and provided one fecal sample for gut microbiome analysis. Fecal microbial community composition was assessed with Illumina MiSeq next-generation sequencing of PCR amplified 16S rRNA genes. Post-hoc analyses compared microbial diversity by groups of high and low physical activity and fiber intake using QIIME and LEfSe bioinformatics software. Results: No statistically significant differences were observed between body mass index and gut microbiome abundance and diversity. Median daily consumption of dietary fiber was 11.2 (7.6, 14.9) g/d, while the median self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was 55.7 (27.9, 79.3) min/d and screen time 195.0 (195.0, 315.0) min/d. Microbial analysis by LEfSe identified Paraprevotellaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Lachnospira as important phylotypes in college students reporting greater MVPA, while Enterobacteriaceae and Enterobacteriales were more enriched among students reporting less MVPA (p < 0.05). Barnesiellaceae, Alphaproteobacteria, and Ruminococcus were more abundant taxa among those consuming less than the median fiber intake (p < 0.05). Post-hoc analyses comparing weighted UniFrac distance metrics based on combined categories of high and low MVPA and fiber revealed that clustering distances between members of the high MVPA-low fiber group were significantly smaller when compared to distances between members of all other MVPA-fiber groups (p < 0.0001). Conclusions: Habitual fiber consumption and MVPA behaviors help explain the differential abundance of specific microbial taxa and overall gut microbial diversity differences in first-year college students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number210
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 12 2018


  • Adolescence
  • Diet
  • Lifestyle behaviors
  • Microbiome
  • Microbiota
  • Obesity
  • Pediatric
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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