Food, immunity, and the microbiome

Gastroenterology. 2015 May;148(6):1107-19. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.12.036. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


There is increasing evidence that ingested diet-borne components are involved in the pathogenesis of disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases, atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes. Nutrients can have short- and long-term effects in shaping the composition of the microbiota. Western diets (enriched in fat, phosphatidylcholine, and L-carnitine) promote inflammation and atherosclerosis through specific fatty acids and degradation products such as trimethylamine N-oxide. Other dietary factors such as carbazoles or tryptophan-enriched proteins have anti-inflammatory properties-partly via activation of aryl hydrocarbon receptors. The microbiota and its metabolic machinery produce a myriad of metabolites that serve as important messengers between the diet, microbiota, and host. Short-chain fatty acids affect immune responses and epithelial integrity via G-protein-coupled receptors and epigenetic mechanisms. By increasing our understanding of interactions between diet, immunity, and the microbiota, we might develop food-based approaches to prevent or treat many diseases. There now is scientific evidence to support the adage "we are what we eat," and this process begins in early life.

Keywords: Anti-Inflammatory; Inflammation; Malnutrition; Metabolome; Western Diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Inflammation / diet therapy
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Malnutrition / diet therapy
  • Malnutrition / immunology
  • Malnutrition / microbiology
  • Malnutrition / physiopathology
  • Microbiota*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Risk Factors