Review Article

Review Article: Dietary Fibre in the era of Microbiome Science

John O'Grady; Eibhlís M. O'Connor; Fergus Shanahan


Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019;49(5):506-515. 

In This Article


Difficulties in defining dietary fibre have led to difficulty defining its health role. The type of fibre, titration of dose, solubility, viscosity and fermentation properties all influence the benefits of a specific fibre in humans. Expanding knowledge of fibre-microbe-host interactions and production of SCFAs by fermentation have reaffirmed some of the previous health benefits attributed to fibre. Despite this, fibre intake remains low in Western societies. Given the range of health benefits associated with specific functional dietary fibres, an opportunity exists for the food industry concerning food reformulation and fortification. Re-introduction of fibre should be a gradual continuous process, never a rapid change, due to uncomfortable and socially undesirable, gas production and cramps.

Lessons from the past should be learned; we believe that the most useful end goal assessments of fibre are metabolic parameters and microbial composition rather than unrealistic goals such as cancer and diverticular disease therapy. Microbiome read-outs will help predict those with the greatest likelihood of a beneficial response to dietary fibre and may inform personalised dietary recommendations for consumption of specific fibre types based on microbial composition. Thus, modern microbiome science can complement traditional nutrition and food science to comprehensively reassess Burkitt's claims that the gut, not the heart, is key to health.[46]