The gut microbiota and lipid metabolism: implications for human health and coronary heart disease

Curr Med Chem. 2006;13(25):3005-21. doi: 10.2174/092986706778521814.


Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of mortality in Western societies, affecting about one third of the population before their seventieth year. Over the past decades modifiable risk factors of CHD have been identified, including smoking and diet. These factors when altered can have a significant impact on an individuals' risk of developing CHD, their overall health and quality of life. There is strong evidence suggesting that dietary intake of plant foods rich in fibre and polyphenolic compounds, effectively lowers the risk of developing CHD. However, the efficacy of these foods often appears to be greater than the sum of their recognised biologically active parts. Here we discuss the hypothesis that beneficial metabolic and vascular effects of dietary fibre and plant polyphenols are due to an up regulation of the colon-systemic metabolic axis by these compounds. Fibres and many polyphenols are converted into biologically active compounds by the colonic microbiota. This microbiota imparts great metabolic versatility and dynamism, with many of their reductive or hydrolytic activities appearing complementary to oxidative or conjugative human metabolism. Understanding these microbial activities is central to determining the role of different dietary components in preventing or beneficially impacting on the impaired lipid metabolism and vascular dysfunction that typifies CHD and type II diabetes. This approach lays the foundation for rational selection of health promoting foods, rational target driven design of functional foods, and provides an essential thus-far, overlooked, dynamic to our understanding of how foods recognised as "healthy" impact on the human metabonome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Phenols / chemistry
  • Plants / chemistry
  • Polyphenols
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols