HealthDay News — Foods like fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, wine, yogurt, and buttermilk can increase the microbial diversity in the gut, while simple carbohydrates appear to reduce it, according to two studies published in the journal Science.

Jingyuan Fu, PhD, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues collected stool samples from 1,135 people living in the northern Netherlands. The samples were used to analyze the DNA of the bacteria and other organisms that live in the gut. In addition to stools, the study collected information on the participants’ diets, medicine use, and health. In a second study, researchers with the Flemish Gut Flora Project performed a similar analysis on stool samples taken from 5,000 volunteers in Belgium.

Both studies concluded that diet has a profound effect on the diversity of gut bacteria, although, Fu said, the “underlying theories of these dietary factors remain largely unknown.”

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Both sets of researchers emphasized that their studies help explain only a fraction of gut bacteria variation — roughly 18% for the Netherlands study and about 7% for the Flemish study. However, the findings from the two groups overlapped about 80% of the time, indicating that they are on the right track, the researchers said.


1. Zhernakova A, Kurilshikov A, Bonder MJ, et al. Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity. Science. 2016; DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3369.