Gut microbiome variation modulates the effects of dietary fiber on host metabolism

Microbiome. 2021 May 20;9(1):117. doi: 10.1186/s40168-021-01061-6.


Background: There is general consensus that consumption of dietary fermentable fiber improves cardiometabolic health, in part by promoting mutualistic microbes and by increasing production of beneficial metabolites in the distal gut. However, human studies have reported variations in the observed benefits among individuals consuming the same fiber. Several factors likely contribute to this variation, including host genetic and gut microbial differences. We hypothesized that gut microbial metabolism of dietary fiber represents an important and differential factor that modulates how dietary fiber impacts the host.

Results: We examined genetically identical gnotobiotic mice harboring two distinct complex gut microbial communities and exposed to four isocaloric diets, each containing different fibers: (i) cellulose, (ii) inulin, (iii) pectin, (iv) a mix of 5 fermentable fibers (assorted fiber). Gut microbiome analysis showed that each transplanted community preserved a core of common taxa across diets that differentiated it from the other community, but there were variations in richness and bacterial taxa abundance within each community among the different diet treatments. Host epigenetic, transcriptional, and metabolomic analyses revealed diet-directed differences between animals colonized with the two communities, including variation in amino acids and lipid pathways that were associated with divergent health outcomes.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that interindividual variation in the gut microbiome is causally linked to differential effects of dietary fiber on host metabolic phenotypes and suggests that a one-fits-all fiber supplementation approach to promote health is unlikely to elicit consistent effects across individuals. Overall, the presented results underscore the importance of microbe-diet interactions on host metabolism and suggest that gut microbes modulate dietary fiber efficacy. Video abstract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Germ-Free Life
  • Inulin
  • Mice


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Inulin