Complex Interactions of Circadian Rhythms, Eating Behaviors, and the Gastrointestinal Microbiota and Their Potential Impact on Health

Nutr Rev. 2017 Sep 1;75(9):673-682. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux036.


Human health is intricately intertwined with the composition and function of the trillions of microorganisms that make up the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome. The GI microbiome is essentially a microbial organ that provides metabolic, immunologic, and protective functions for the host. Habitual diet, changes in macronutrient composition, and consumption of nondigestible dietary fibers have all been shown to impact the human GI microbiome. Intriguingly, the impact of diet on the microbiome may be related not only to what humans eat but also to the timing of food consumption. Emerging preclinical research suggests that gut microbes experience diurnal rhythms, and the health effects of eating patterns, including time-restricted feeding and meal frequency, may be related to the GI microbiome. Herein, the complex connections among circadian rhythms, eating behaviors, the GI microbiome, and health are reviewed, highlighting the need for additional translational research in this area.

Keywords: circadian rhythm; eating frequency; eating patterns; jet lag; microbiome; shift work; time-restricted feeding.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic