Contribution of diet to the composition of the human gut microbiota

Daniela Graf, Raffaella Di Cagno, Frida Fåk, Harry J Flint, Margareta Nyman, Maria Saarela, Bernhard Watzl

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In the human gut, millions of bacteria contribute to the microbiota, whose composition is specific for every individual. Although we are just at the very beginning of understanding the microbiota concept, we already know that the composition of the microbiota has a profound impact on human health. A key factor in determining gut microbiota composition is diet. Preliminary evidence suggests that dietary patterns are associated with distinct combinations of bacteria in the intestine, also called enterotypes. Western diets result in significantly different microbiota compositions than traditional diets. It is currently unknown which food constituents specifically promote growth and functionality of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. The aim of this review is to summarize the recently published evidence from human in vivo studies on the gut microbiota-modulating effects of diet. It includes sections on dietary patterns (e.g. Western diet), whole foods, food constituents, as wells as food-associated microbes and their influence on the composition of human gut microbiota. The conclusions highlight the problems faced by scientists in this fast-developing field of research, and the need for high-quality, large-scale human dietary intervention studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26164
Number of pages11
JournalMicrobial Ecology in Health and Disease
Early online date4 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

This paper is part of the Proceedings from the 2013 ENGIHR Conference in Valencia, Spain. More papers from this supplement can be found at

Microbial Ecology in Health & Disease 2015. © 2015 Daniela Graf et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License (, permitting all non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The authors acknowledge the support of the European Science Foundation (ESF), in the framework of the Research Networking Programe, The European Network for Gastrointestinal Health Research.


  • human gut microbiota
  • dietary patterns
  • food constituents
  • diet


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