Links between diet, gut microbiota composition and gut metabolism

Harry James Flint* (Corresponding Author), Sylvia H. Duncan, Karen P. Scott, Petra Louis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

643 Citations (Scopus)


The gut microbiota and its metabolic products interact with the host in many different ways, influencing gut homoeostasis and health outcomes. The species composition of the gut microbiota has been shown to respond to dietary change, determined by competition for substrates and by tolerance of gut conditions. Meanwhile, the metabolic outputs of the microbiota, such as SCFA, are influenced both by the supply of dietary components and via diet-mediated changes in microbiota composition. There has been significant progress in identifying the phylogenetic distribution of pathways responsible for formation of particular metabolites among human colonic bacteria, based on combining cultural microbiology and sequence-based approaches. Formation of butyrate and propionate from hexose sugars, for example, can be ascribed to different bacterial groups, although propionate can be formed via alternative pathways from deoxy-sugars and from lactate by a few species. Lactate, which is produced by many gut bacteria in pure culture, can also be utilised by certain Firmicutes to form butyrate, and its consumption may be important for maintaining a stable community. Predicting the impact of diet upon such a complex and interactive system as the human gut microbiota not only requires more information on the component groups involved but, increasingly, the integration of such information through modelling approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

Financial Support

The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health is funded by the Scottish Government (SG-RESAS).


  • gut bacteria
  • dietary fibre
  • propionate
  • butyrate
  • lactate


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