Date of this Version
2019 Ivey et al.
Flavonoids are a group of polyphenolic dietary compounds found in many different plant-based foods. There is increasing evidence that higher flavonoid intake may be causally linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. The bioactivity and bioavailability of many dietary flavonoids can be influenced by gastrointestinal microbiome metabolism. However, the role that habitual flavonoid intake plays in shaping the human gut microbiome is poorly understood. We describe an application of an ecosystem-based analytic approach to nutritional, microbiome, and questionnaire data from a cohort of more than 240 generally healthy adult males to assess the role of dietary flavonoid compounds in driving patterns of microbial community assembly. We identified six subclass-specific microbial communities (SMCs) uniquely and independently associated with intakes of the six flavonoid subclasses. Eggerthela lenta was positively associated with intakes of flavonol and flavanone, and Adlercreutzia equolifaciens was positively associated with intakes of flavonols and flavanol monomers. In contrast, for nearly all flavonoid subclasses, Flavonifractor plautii was inversely associated with subclass consumption. Consuming tea at least once per week explained 10.4% of the total variance in assembly of the 20 species comprising the flavanol monomer SMC. The novel methodology employed, necessitated by multidimensional microbiome data that consist of nonindependent features that exhibit a wide range of distributions and mean values, addresses a major challenge in our ability to understand associations of the microbiome in a wide range of clinical and epidemiologic settings.