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Associations of healthy food choices with gut microbiota profiles.



Diet has a major influence on the human gut microbiota, which has been linked to health and disease. However, epidemiological studies on associations of a healthy diet with the microbiota utilizing a whole-diet approach are still scant.


To assess associations between healthy food choices and human gut microbiota composition, and to determine the strength of association with functional potential.


This population-based study sample consisted of 4930 participants (ages 25-74; 53% women) in the FINRISK 2002 study. Intakes of recommended foods were assessed using a food propensity questionnaire, and responses were transformed into healthy food choices (HFC) scores. Microbial diversity (alpha diversity) and compositional differences (beta diversity) and their associations with the HFC score and its components were assessed using linear regression. Multiple permutational multivariate ANOVAs were run from whole-metagenome shallow shotgun-sequenced samples. Associations between specific taxa and HFC were analyzed using linear regression. Functional associations were derived from Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes orthologies with linear regression models.


Both microbial alpha diversity (β/SD, 0.044; SE, 6.18 × 10-5; P = 2.21 × 10-3) and beta diversity (R2, 0.12; P ≤ 1.00 × 10-3) were associated with the HFC score. For alpha diversity, the strongest associations were observed for fiber-rich breads, poultry, fruits, and low-fat cheeses (all positive). For beta diversity, the most prominent associations were observed for vegetables, followed by berries and fruits. Genera with fiber-degrading and SCFA-producing capacities were positively associated with the HFC score. The HFC score was associated positively with functions such as SCFA metabolism and synthesis, and inversely with functions such as fatty acid biosynthesis and the sulfur relay system.


Our results from a large, population-based survey confirm and extend findings of other, smaller-scale studies that plant- and fiber-rich dietary choices are associated with a more diverse and compositionally distinct microbiota, and with a greater potential to produce SCFAs.

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