Associations between dietary micronutrient intake and molecular-Bacterial Vaginosis

Susan Tuddenham, Khalil G. Ghanem, Laura E. Caulfield, Alisha J. Rovner, Courtney Robinson, Rupak Shivakoti, Ryan Miller, Anne Burke, Catherine Murphy, Jacques Ravel, Rebecca M. Brotman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: Bacterial vaginosis (BV), a clinical condition characterized by decreased vaginal Lactobacillus spp., is difficult to treat. We examined associations between micronutrient intake and a low-Lactobacillus vaginal microbiota as assessed by molecular methods (termed "molecular-BV"). Methods: This cross-sectional analysis utilized data collected at the baseline visit of the Hormonal Contraception Longitudinal Study, a cohort of reproductive-aged women followed over 2 years while initiating or ceasing hormonal contraception (HC). The Block Brief 2000 Food Frequency Questionnaire was administered and micronutrient intakes were ranked. Vaginal microbiota composition was assessed using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and clustered into community state types (CSTs) based on the types and relative abundance of bacteria detected. Associations between the lowest estimated quartile intake of nutrients and having a low-Lactobacillus CST (molecular-BV) were evaluated by logistic regression. Separate models were built for each nutrient controlling for age, body mass index, behavioral factors, HC use and total energy intake. We also conducted a literature review of existing data on associations between micronutrient intakes and BV. Results: Samples from 104 women were included in this analysis. Their mean age was 25.8 years (SD 4.3), 29.8% were African American, 48.1% were using HC, and 25% had molecular-BV. In adjusted multivariable analyses, the lowest quartile of betaine intake was associated with an increased odds of molecular-BV (aOR 9.2, p value < 0.01, [CI 2.4-35.0]). Conclusions: This is the first study to assess the association between estimated micronutrient intake and molecular-BV. Lower energy-adjusted intake of betaine was associated with an increased risk of molecular-BV. Betaine might have direct effects on the vaginal microenvironment or may be mediated through the gut microbiota. Additional research is needed to determine reproducibility of this finding and whether improved intake of select micronutrients such as betaine decreases the risk of BV and its sequelae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151
JournalReproductive health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 22 2019


  • Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Betaine
  • Food frequency questionnaire
  • Vaginal microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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