Diet-Gut Microbiome Associations and Patients With Intestinal Disease

Illustration of the gut microbiome.
Researchers studied the interactions between diet, gut microbiota, and their functional ability to induce intestinal inflammation.

Diet-gut microbiome associations are consistent across patients with intestinal disease and the general population, and higher intake of animal foods, processed foods, alcohol, and sugar corresponds with a microbial environment that is characteristic of inflammation, according to a study published in Gut.

The microbiome directly affects the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in the gut, and as microbes thrive on dietary substrates, the question arises whether we can nourish an anti-inflammatory gut ecosystem. Researchers studied the interactions between diet, gut microbiota, and their functional ability to induce intestinal inflammation by investigating the relationship between 173 dietary factors and the microbiomes of 1425 individuals spanning four cohorts: Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and the general population.

Shotgun metagenomic sequencing was performed to profile gut microbial composition and function and dietary intake was assessed through food frequency questionnaires. The researchers performed unsupervised clustering to identify dietary patterns and microbial clusters. Associations between diet and microbial features were explored per cohort, followed by a meta-analysis and heterogeneity estimation.

Thirty-eight associations between dietary patterns and microbial clusters were identified. Sixty-one individual foods and nutrients were associated with 61 species and 249 metabolic pathways in the meta-analysis across healthy individuals and patients with IBS, Crohn disease, and UC.

Processed foods and animal-derived foods were consistently associated with higher abundances of Firmicutes, the Ruminococcus species of the Blautia genus, and endotoxin synthesis pathways. The opposite was found for plant foods and fish, which were positively associated with short-chain fatty acid-producing commensals and pathways of nutrient metabolism.

“We identified dietary patterns that consistently correlate with groups of bacteria with shared functional roles in both, health and disease,” concluded the authors.  “Moreover,

specific foods and nutrients were associated with species known to infer mucosal protection and anti-inflammatory effects,” added the authors.

Disclosure: Some study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures. 


Bolte LA, Vich Vila A, Imhann F, et al. Long-term dietary patterns are associated with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory features of the gut microbiome. Gut. Published online April 2, 2021. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-322670