Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome
FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
2Society of Fellows, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
3Division of Endocrinology, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
4Department of Bioengineering & Therapeutic Sciences and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 94158, USA.
Long-term diet influences the structure and activity of the trillions of microorganisms residing in the human gut1–5, but it remains unclear how rapidly and reproducibly the human gut microbiome responds to short-term macronutrient change. Here, we show that the short-term consumption of diets composed entirely of animal or plant products alters microbial community structure and overwhelms inter-individual differences in microbial gene expression. The animal-based diet increased the abundance of bile-tolerant microorganisms ( Alistipes, Bilophila , and Bacteroides ) and decreased the levels of Firmicutes that metabolize dietary plant polysaccharides ( Roseburia, Eubacterium rectale , and Ruminococcus bromii ). Microbial activity mirrored differences between herbivorous and carnivorous mammals2, reflecting trade-offs between carbohydrate and protein fermentation. Foodborne microbes from both diets transiently colonized the gut, including bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. Finally, increases in the abundance and activity of Bilophila wadsworthia on the animal-based diet support a link between dietary fat, bile acids, and the outgrowth of microorganisms capable of triggering inflammatory bowel disease6. In concert, these results demonstrate that the gut microbiome can rapidly respond to altered diet, potentially facilitating the diversity of human dietary lifestyles.