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Dietary Polyphenols Affect Both Commensals and Pathogens in the Gut

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 23 December 2021
Dietary Polyphenols Affect Both Commensals and Pathogens in the Gut

Prior to discoveries relating the composition and function of the gut microbiome to human health, plant polyphenols were thought to provide benefit mainly as antioxidants. Recent meta-analyses are beginning to characterize how dietary polyphenols influence the makeup and overall diversity of the gut microbiota.

Only a small proportion of ingested polyphenols, on the order of 5-10%, are absorbed by the small intestine, with the balance delivered to the colon and its crucial microbial communities. Through selective support or inhibition of particular microbial species’ growth, dietary polyphenols have the potential to reshape the human gut microbiota and microbiome, with subsequent effects on metabolism and overall health. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Clostridium species figure prominently in human health.

Clostridial species include butyrogens (butyrate producers) such as C. butyricum and others displaying health benefits along with disease-causing pathogens like C. perfringens, C. difficile, and C. histolyticum.

Greater consumption of dietary polyphenols (like quercetin and anthocyanidins) is strongly associated with superior cardiovascular, metabolic, and cognitive health outcomes.

Polyphenols can act as prebiotic substances for beneficial gut microbes that, in turn, provide the human host with health-promoting metabolites, and this relationship is increasingly recognized as contributing to the benefits of dietary polyphenols. Increasing intakes of polyphenols through polyphenol-rich foods and supplements may improve gut microbiome function and long-term human health. 

Author:Manuela Boyle


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia