Impact of tart cherries polyphenols on the human gut microbiota and phenolic metabolites in vitro and in vivo

J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Sep;59:160-172. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 Apr 7.


Tart cherries have been reported to exert potential health benefits attributed to their specific and abundant polyphenol content. However, there is a need to study the impact and fate of tart cherries polyphenols in the gut microbiota. Here, tart cherries, pure polyphenols (and apricots) were submitted to in vitro bacterial fermentation assays and assessed through 16S rRNA gene sequence sequencing and metabolomics. A short-term (5 days, 8 oz. daily) human dietary intervention study was also conducted for microbiota analyses. Tart cherry concentrate juices were found to contain expected abundances of anthocyanins (cyanidin-glycosylrutinoside) and flavonoids (quercetin-rutinoside) and high amounts of chlorogenic and neochlorogenic acids. Targeted metabolomics confirmed that gut microbes were able to degrade those polyphenols mainly to 4-hydroxyphenylpropionic acids and to lower amounts of epicatechin and 4-hydroxybenzoic acids. Tart cherries were found to induce a large increase of Bacteroides in vitro, likely due to the input of polysaccharides, but prebiotic effect was also suggested by Bifidobacterium increase from chlorogenic acid. In the human study, two distinct and inverse responses to tart cherry consumption were associated with initial levels of Bacteroides. High-Bacteroides individuals responded with a decrease in Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium, and an increase of Lachnospiraceae, Ruminococcus and Collinsella. Low-Bacteroides individuals responded with an increase in Bacteroides or Prevotella and Bifidobacterium, and a decrease of Lachnospiraceae, Ruminococcus and Collinsella. These data confirm that gut microbiota metabolism, in particular the potential existence of different metabotypes, needs to be considered in studies attempting to link tart cherries consumption and health.

Keywords: Gut microbiota; Human dietary intervention; In vitro fermentation; Metabolomics; Polyphenols; Tart cherries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bifidobacterium / drug effects
  • Bifidobacterium / genetics
  • Female
  • Fermentation
  • Fruit and Vegetable Juices
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Polyphenols / analysis
  • Polyphenols / pharmacokinetics
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*
  • Prunus avium / chemistry*


  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols