Carbohydrates and the human gut microbiota

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Jul;16(4):453-60. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283619e63.


Purpose of review: Due to its scale and its important role in maintaining health, the gut microbiota can be considered as a 'new organ' inside the human body. Many complex carbohydrates are degraded and fermented by the human gut microbiota in the large intestine to both yield basic energy salvage and impact gut health through produced metabolites.

Recent findings: This review will focus on the gut microbes and microbial mechanisms responsible for polysaccharides degradation and fermentation in the large intestine. Gut microbes and bacterial metabolites impact the host at many levels, including modulation of inflammation, and glucose and lipid metabolisms.

Summary: A complex relationship occurs in the intestine between the human gut microbiota, diet and the host. Research on carbohydrates and gut microbiota composition and functionality is fast developing and will open opportunities for prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes and other related metabolic disorders through manipulation of the gut ecosystem.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bifidobacterium / drug effects
  • Bifidobacterium / growth & development
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fermentation
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Lactobacillus / drug effects
  • Lactobacillus / growth & development
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Microbiota*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Prebiotics


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Prebiotics