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Eating for Your Microbiome: Discovering the Impact of Polyphenols on Gut Health

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMay 29, 2024

A pioneering exploration underscores how our daily dietary habits, specifically the consumption of polyphenols—naturally occurring compounds in various plant-based foods—influence the gut microbiota in healthy individuals. In a novel study of the International Cohort on Lifestyle Determinants of Health (INCLD Health), researchers deployed dietary questionnaires and cutting-edge microbiome sequencing to unravel the intricate connections between polyphenol consumption and the gut's microbial residents.

The study amassed data from 96 healthy adult participants, assessing their microbiome through advanced genetic techniques. An intriguing finding emerged—while microbial diversity remained consistent, the actual types of bacterial species present diverged based on polyphenol intake levels. High daily consumption of polyphenols correlated with a rise in beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Sutterella and a conversely lower representation of opportunistic or pro-inflammatory bacteria such as Bacteroides and Enterococcus.

Intriguingly, certain microbial taxa linked with human wellness, like Lactobacillus known for its involvement in immune and cardiometabolic processes, displayed amplified abundance alongside higher polyphenolic intake. These associations extended beyond general consumption to encompass the frequency of polyphenol-rich herb and spice usage.

The study, published in "Nutrients" 2024, 16, 773 (accessible via, yields crucial insights for future nutritional guidelines and precision dietary interventions targeting gut microbiota. These findings may prove to be critical as diets rich in polyphenols appear to bolster an intestinal environment less hospitable to potentially virulent microbes, spotlighting the preventive potential of polyphenolic-rich foods in health maintenance and disease deflection.

It is important to underscore that while this investigation sheds new light on diet-microbiota interactions, it also pinpoints limitations such as the challenge of quantifying the polyphenol contribution specifically from culinary herbs and spices. The study advocates for broader research across diverse geographic regions to fortify the correlation base between habitual polyphenol consumption and microbiota.

Built with the help of Buoy Health, this study enriches our understanding of how everyday dietary choices affect gut flora composition and proposes the need for larger-scale studies across multiple locations to reinforce its findings.

The thorough inquiry into the INCLD Health cohort's dietary patterns and microbiota indeed pushes the boundaries of modern nutritional science and epidemiology, ultimately suggesting that what we put on our plate could be quietly shaping the microbial universe within us.


Vita, A.A.; Roberts, K.M.; Gundersen, A.; Farris, Y.; Zwickey H.; Bradley, R.; Weir, T.L. (2024). Relationships between habitual polyphenol consumption and gut microbiota in the INCLD health cohort. Nutrients, 16(6), 773.