Up-regulating the human intestinal microbiome using whole plant foods, polyphenols, and/or fiber

J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Sep 12;60(36):8776-82. doi: 10.1021/jf2053959. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Whole plant foods, including fruit, vegetables, and whole grain cereals, protect against chronic human diseases such as heart disease and cancer, with fiber and polyphenols thought to contribute significantly. These bioactive food components interact with the gut microbiota, with gut bacteria modifying polyphenol bioavailability and activity, and with fiber, constituting the main energy source for colonic fermentation. This paper discusses the consequences of increasing the consumption of whole plant foods on the gut microbiota and subsequent implications for human health. In humans, whole grain cereals can modify fecal bacterial profiles, increasing relative numbers of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Polyphenol-rich chocolate and certain fruits have also been shown to increase fecal bifidobacteria. The recent FLAVURS study provides novel information on the impact of high fruit and vegetable diets on the gut microbiota. Increasing whole plant food consumption appears to up-regulate beneficial commensal bacteria and may contribute toward the health effects of these foods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fiber / analysis
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Metagenome*
  • Polyphenols / analysis
  • Polyphenols / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation
  • Vegetables / chemistry
  • Vegetables / metabolism*


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Polyphenols