In the human gut, millions of bacteria contribute to the microbiota, whose composition is specific for every individual. Although we are just at the very beginning of understanding the microbiota concept, we already know that the composition of the microbiota has a profound impact on human health. A key factor in determining gut microbiota composition is diet. Preliminary evidence suggests that dietary patterns are associated with distinct combinations of bacteria in the intestine, also called enterotypes. Western diets result in significantly different microbiota compositions than traditional diets. It is currently unknown which food constituents specifically promote growth and functionality of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. The aim of this review is to summarize the recently published evidence from human in vivo studies on the gut microbiota-modulating effects of diet. It includes sections on dietary patterns (e.g. Western diet), whole foods, food constituents, as wells as food-associated microbes and their influence on the composition of human gut microbiota. The conclusions highlight the problems faced by scientists in this fast-developing field of research, and the need for high-quality, large-scale human dietary intervention studies.
Keywords: diet; dietary patterns; food constituents; human gut microbiota.