Could gut microbiome data inform new dietary guidelines?

The authors of the study, published in The Journal of Nutrition​, cross-analyzed information from participants of the American Gut Project. By comparing microbiota populations in stool samples with diet information, researchers were able to determine which foods resulted in more diverse microbiota populations.

“We observed differences … that corroborate evidence underlining the dietary impact on the gut microbiota and extend previous research by presenting results from a very healthy cohort that may help inform future work aiming to define a ‘healthy’ microbiome,” wrote researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California San Diego.


A total of 432 participants were included for analysis, ranging from 18 to 60 years old. Participants completed the VioScreen food frequency questionnaire and mailed in fecal samples. The food frequency questionnaire was completed for the 90 days prior to mailing in the fecal samples.

The authors investigated the differences in fecal microbiota composition, cross-referencing with the dietary data. Scores were calculated using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which calculates how compliant a person is in following the dietary guideline recommendations. HEI-2015 scores have an inverse relationship with the risk of several health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Scores were calculated by categorizing 13 elements into two groups: adequacy components, which are encouraged, and moderation components, which are limited. A higher HEI score would be made via a greater consumption of adequacy components and limited consumption of moderation components. Adequacy components include fruit, vegetable, whole grains, protein, dairy, etc. while moderation includes refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats and sodium.

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