Nutritional Components in Western Diet Versus Mediterranean Diet at the Gut Microbiota-Immune System Interplay. Implications for Health and Disease

Nutrients. 2021 Feb 22;13(2):699. doi: 10.3390/nu13020699.


The most prevalent diseases of our time, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer) are rising worldwide. All of them share the condition of an "inflammatory disorder", with impaired immune functions frequently caused or accompanied by alterations in gut microbiota. These multifactorial maladies also have in common malnutrition related to physiopathology. In this context, diet is the greatest modulator of immune system-microbiota crosstalk, and much interest, and new challenges, are arising in the area of precision nutrition as a way towards treatment and prevention. It is a fact that the westernized diet (WD) is partly responsible for the increased prevalence of NCDs, negatively affecting both gut microbiota and the immune system. Conversely, other nutritional approaches, such as Mediterranean diet (MD), positively influence immune system and gut microbiota, and is proposed not only as a potential tool in the clinical management of different disease conditions, but also for prevention and health promotion globally. Thus, the purpose of this review is to determine the regulatory role of nutritional components of WD and MD in the gut microbiota and immune system interplay, in order to understand, and create awareness of, the influence of diet over both key components.

Keywords: food matrix; gut microbiota; host immunometabolism; immunomodulation; intestinal barrier; malnutrition; mediterranean diet; micronutrients; western diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Diet, Western*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Immune System*
  • Noncommunicable Diseases