Many dietary patterns have been associated with cardiometabolic risk reduction. A commonality between these dietary patterns is the emphasis on plant-based foods. Studies in individuals who consume vegetarian and vegan diets have shown a reduced risk of cardiovascular events and incidence of diabetes. Plant-based dietary patterns may promote a more favorable gut microbial profile. Such diets are high in dietary fiber and fermentable substrate (ie, nondigestible or undigested carbohydrates), which are sources of metabolic fuel for gut microbial fermentation and, in turn, result in end products that may be used by the host (eg, short-chain fatty acids). These end products may have direct or indirect effects on modulating the health of their host. Modulation of the gut microbiota is an area of growing interest, and it has been suggested to have the potential to reduce risk factors associated with chronic diseases. Examples of dietary components that alter the gut microbial composition include prebiotics and resistant starches. Emerging evidence also suggests a potential link between interindividual differences in the gut microbiota and variations in physiology or predisposition to certain chronic disease risk factors. Alterations in the gut microbiota may also stimulate certain populations and may assist in biotransformation of bioactive components found in plant foods. Strategies to modify microbial communities may therefore provide a novel approach in the treatment and management of chronic diseases.
© 2014 American Society for Nutrition.