Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
A study that examined the relationships between dietary fiber, gut microbes, and chronic inflammation has revealed many interesting insights. This study was conducted on 307 healthy US men. This study entitled “Dietary fiber intake, the gut microbiome, and chronic systemic inflammation in a cohort of adult men” was published in Genome Medicine. This study had major contributions from the scientists of the Harvard Medical School, the University of Nebraska Medical School, and the Washington University School of Medicine.
This study revealed two major findings. The first one is about the modification of the effect of dietary fibers by some gut microbes. Specifically, the study showed that Prevotella copri eliminates the protective benefits of dietary fiber in chronic inflammation. While it is a common understanding that fibers – that act as prebiotics – can affect the composition and function of the gut microbes, it is astonishing that the presence of some microbes in the gut can offset the protective effects of dietary fibers. The study found that up to 25% of healthy US men have Prevotella copri in their gut and may remain devoid of the protective benefits of fibers due to the presence of Prevotella copri. This finding can be clinically important in the treatment of patients with diseases of the gut who are recommended dietary fiber supplementation.
The second important finding from this study relates to the identification of the fact that fruit fibers (Pectins) have a relatively higher prebiotic impact on the composition and function of the gut microbes than vegetable fibers. Of note, Pectin is a major constituent in apples. Thus, this brings the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” back into focus. This finding can also have major implications for using dietary fibers in the treatment of gut diseases, with a shift toward higher use of fruit fibers.
What are the Major Takeaways from This Study?
This study shows that dietary fibers, gut microbes, and chronic inflammation are complexly linked. Cross-talks are possible between these three intricately linked phenomena. While two important cross-talks were identified in this study – the differential effect of fruit fiber versus vegetable fibers and the offsetting of important protective benefits of dietary fibers by some gut microbes – many more are yet to be discovered.
Thus, there would be a great scope for the personalization of treatment approaches involving dietary fibers based on the results of future studies in this space. These personalized approaches may target the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions, particularly those involving the gut.
Ma, W., Nguyen, L. H., Song, M., Wang, D. D., Franzosa, E. A., Cao, Y., Joshi, A., Drew, D. A., Mehta, R., Ivey, K. L., Strate, L. L., Giovannucci, E. L., Izard, J., Garrett, W., Rimm, E. B., Huttenhower, C., & Chan, A. T. (2021). Dietary fiber intake, the gut microbiome, and chronic systemic inflammation in a cohort of adult men. Genome medicine, 13(1), 102. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13073-021-00921-y