Measuring Dietary Botanical Diversity as a Proxy for Phytochemical Exposure

Nutrients. 2021 Apr 14;13(4):1295. doi: 10.3390/nu13041295.


The study of natural plant molecules and their medicinal properties, pharmacognosy, provides a taxonomy for botanical families that represent diverse chemical groupings with potentially distinct functions in relation to human health. Yet, this reservoir of knowledge has not been systematically applied to elucidating the role of patterns of plant food consumption on gut microbial ecology and function. All chemical classes of dietary phytochemicals can affect the composition of the microbes that colonize the gut and their function. In turn, the gut microbiome affects the host via multiple mechanisms including gut barrier function, immune function, satiety and taste regulation and the activity of biological signaling pathways that influence health and disease. Herein, we report the development of a botanical diversity index (BDI) to evaluate plant food consumption as a novel metric for identifying and quantifying phytochemicals to which an individual is exposed. A rationale is advanced for using the BDI to investigate how plant food diversity impacts gut microbial ecology and functionality.

Keywords: botanical diversity; chronic disease risk; dietary pattern; gut microbiome; metabolomics; metagenomics.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Diet Surveys / methods*
  • Diet Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytochemicals*
  • Plants, Edible / chemistry*


  • Phytochemicals