Why interindividual variation in response to consumption of plant food bioactives matters for future personalised nutrition

Christine Morand* (Corresponding Author), Baukje De Roos, Maria Teresa Garcia-Conesa, Eileen R Gibney, Rikard Landberg, Claudine Manach, Dragan Milenkovic, Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Tom Van de Wiele, Francisco Tomas-Barberan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Food phytochemicals are increasingly considered to play a key role in the cardiometabolic health effects of plant foods. However, the heterogeneity in responsiveness to their intake frequently observed in clinical trials can hinder the beneficial effects of these compounds in specific subpopulations. A range of factors, including genetic background, gut microbiota, age, sex and health status, could be involved in these interindividual variations; however, the current knowledge is limited and fragmented. The European network, European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)-POSITIVe, has analysed, in a systematic way, existing knowledge with the aim to better understand the factors responsible for the interindividual variation in response to the consumption of the major families of plant food bioactives, regarding their bioavailability and bioefficacy. If differences in bioavailability, likely reflecting differences in human subjects' genetics or in gut microbiota composition and functionality, are believed to underpin much of the interindividual variability, the key molecular determinants or microbial species remain to be identified. The systematic analysis of published studies conducted to assess the interindividual variation in biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk suggested some factors (such as adiposity and health status) as involved in between-subject variation. However, the contribution of these factors is not demonstrated consistently across the different compounds and biological outcomes and would deserve further investigations. The findings of the network clearly highlight that the human subjects' intervention studies published so far are not adequate to investigate the relevant determinants of the absorption/metabolism and biological responsiveness. They also emphasise the need for a new generation of intervention studies designed to capture this interindividual variation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number2
Early online date4 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

This article is based upon work from COST Action A1403 POSITIVe (interindividual variation in response to consumption of plant food bioactives and determinants involved) supported by COST https://www.cost. eu). The authors also acknowledge all the partners of the COST Action POSITIVe for their involvement in the network and their key contribution to the advancement in the field covered by the action.

Financial Support
This work received financial support from Cost Action FA1403 – European Cooperation in Science and Technology.

Conflict of Interest

Ch. M. and F. T. B. conceived and drafted the manuscript. All the authors contributed with critical intellectual input, read and revised the final draft.


  • Plant foods
  • Food phytochemicals
  • Cardiometabolic health
  • Interindividual variability


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