This paper belongs to a sequence of two publications that review the metabolic activities of the gastrointestinal microbiota and its interactions with a selection of dietary substrates. In the current review, the authors examine microbial pathways associated with the metabolism of nutrients and non-nutrients. Further, they describe methodologies that can be applied to study the identified metabolic pathways.
The gut microbiota composition is of considerable interest in the context of a number of non-communicable disease due to their metabolic potential on dietary substrates. The complex inter-dependence between the gut microbiota, the host and the host’s diet is well known, however, the full functionalities of the microbiota and its effects on health are unknown. Hence, this review aimed to assess recent literature relating to the role played by the gut microbiota in the absorption and metabolism of key nutrients and non-nutrients.
The systematic review demonstrates that the gut microbiota plays a major role in the breakdown and transformation of a number of dietary substrates; however, human data are limited to studies examining fibres and polyphenols. Further, inconsistencies in methodological approaches between studies and the insufficient characterisation of non-digestible compounds made comparisons and conclusive statements challenging. Going forward, further rigorously controlled randomised human trials with well-defined dietary substrates and utilizing omic-based technologies to characterise and measure the gut microbiota and their functional activities will advance the field. Current evidence suggests that more detailed knowledge of the metabolic activities and interactions of the gut microbiota holds considerable promise in relation to host health.
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