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The Gut Microbiome Is Associated with Circulating Dietary Biomarkers of Fruit and Vegetable Intake in a Multiethnic Cohort



      Results from observational studies suggest high diet quality favorably influences the human gut microbiome. Fruit and vegetable consumption is often a key contributor to high diet quality.


      To evaluate measures of gut bacterial diversity and abundance in relation to serum biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake.


      Secondary analysis of cross-sectional data.

      Participants and setting

      Men and women from Los Angeles, CA, and Hawai’i who participated in the Multiethnic Cohort–Adiposity Phenotype Study from 2013 to 2016 (N = 1,709).

      Main outcome measures

      Gut microbiome diversity and composition in relation to dietary biomarkers.

      Statistical analysis

      Carotenoid (beta carotene, alpha carotene, cryptoxanthins, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin), tocopherol (α, β + γ, and δ), and retinol concentrations were assessed in serum. The α and β diversity and composition of the gut microbiome were classified based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing of bacterial DNA from self-collected fecal samples. Global differences in microbial community profiles in relation dietary biomarkers were evaluated using multivariable permutational analysis of variance. Associations of α diversity (Shannon index), β diversity (weighted and unweighted UniFrac) with center log-ratio–transformed phyla and genera abundances were evaluated using linear regression, adjusted for covariates.


      Increasing total carotenoid, beta carotene, alpha carotene, cryptoxanthin, and lycopene concentrations were associated with higher gut bacterial diversity (Shannon Index) (P < 0.001). Total tocopherol, α-tocopherol, and δ-tocopherol concentrations contributed significantly to more than 1% of the microbiome variation in gut bacterial community: total tocopherol: 1.74%; α-tocopherol: 1.70%; and δ-tocopherol: 1.16% (P < 0.001). Higher total carotenoid was associated with greater abundance of some genera relevant for microbial macronutrient metabolism (P < 0.001).


      Objective biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake, particularly carotenoids, were favorably associated with gut bacterial composition and diversity in this multiethnic population. These observations provide supportive evidence that fruit and vegetable intake is related to gut bacterial composition; more work is needed to elucidate how this influences host health.


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      C. L. Frankenfeld is an associate professor and program director, Master of Public Health Program, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA; at the time of the study, she was an associate professor, Department of Global and Community Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      M. A. J. Hullar is principal staff scientist, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.


      G. Maskarinec is a professor, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      K. R. Monroe is an associate professor, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.


      J. A. Shepherd is a full member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      A. A. Franke is a professor, Cancer Biology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      T. W. Randolph is an associate professor, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.


      L. R. Wilkens is a full member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      C. J. Boushey is an associate research professor, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      L. Le Marchand is a professor, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      U. Lim is a full member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu.


      J. W. Lampe is a full professor, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.