First evidence: Consumption of fruit and vegetables positively influences diversity in the gut

You are what you eat!


The composition and function of the human gut microbiota are directly related to our overall health throughout our lifetime. For human health, the diversity of the gut microbiota is essential. The gut microbiota’s makeup is greatly influenced by diet. Numerous diets, dietary choices, nutrient consumption, nutrition, and the effects on the gut flora have been researched. It is yet unclear whether the bacteria found in fruits and vegetables add to the diversity of gut bacteria as a whole.

A research team from the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at TU Graz has demonstrated in a meta-study that eating fruit and vegetables increases the diversity of bacteria in the human gut. The study proves that plant microorganisms from fruit and vegetables contribute to the human microbiome.

To determine the frequency of related bacteria in 2,426 publically available gut metagenomes, scientists reassembled metagenome-assembled genomes from 156 fruit and vegetable metagenomes. Members in standards such as Enterobacterales, Burkholderiales, and Lactobacillales represent the microbiomes of fresh fruits and vegetables and the human gut.

This genome collection served as a reference database to map gut metagenome reads and estimate the relative abundance of the corresponding fruit and vegetable-associated bacteria in the human gut.

These were contrasted with data from two studies on the intestinal flora that were made publically available. Both the TEDDY experiment and the American Gut experiment collected information on the food intake of the test subjects as they researched the intestinal microbiomes of adults and the development of newborns throughout time.

The researchers analyzed several billion sequences using metagenome data from about 2,500 stool samples, each of which included between one and ten million sequences. This substantial data set might prove the existence of fruit and vegetable bacteria in the gut. The WHO’s One Health concept, which closely ties the health of people, animals, and the environment, is supported by this evidence.

Due to the presence of putative health-promoting genes for the synthesis of vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, exposure to bacteria through fruit and vegetable consumption may positively affect the functional diversity of gut microbiota. They were constantly present in the human intestine, but in tiny amounts—roughly 2.2%. 

The age of the host, the frequency of vegetable consumption, and the variety of plants ingested were the factors favoring a higher share. These findings offer one of the most critical connections between the environmental and human microbiomes.

First author Wisnu Adi Wicaksono said, “The proof that microorganisms from fruits and vegetables can colonize the human gut has now been established for the first time. This suggests that the consumption of fruit and vegetables, especially in infancy, positively influences the development of the immune system in the first three or so years of life, as the intestinal microbiome develops during this time. But even after that, a good diversity of gut bacteria benefits health and resilience.”

Institute head Gabriele Berg said“It simply influences everything. Diversity influences the resilience of the whole organism; higher diversity conveys more resilience.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Wisnu Adi Wicaksono, Tomislav Cernava, Birgit Wassermann et al. The edible plant microbiome: evidence of fruit and vegetable bacteria in the human gut. Gut Microbes. DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2023.2258565
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