According to a Spanish study published in ‘Clinical Nutrition’, the gut microbiota coexists in partnership with the human host through adaptations to environmental and physiological changes that help maintain dynamic homeostatic healthy states. Break-down of this delicate balance under sustained exposure to stressors (e.g. unhealthy diets) can, however, contribute to the onset of disease.

Diet is a key modifiable environmental factor that modulates the gut microbiota and its metabolic capacities that, in turn, could impact human physiology. On this basis, the diet and the gut microbiota could act as synergistic forces that provide resilience against disease or that speed the progress from health to disease states.

Associations between unhealthy dietary patterns, non-communicable diseases and intestinal dysbiosis can be explained by this hypothesis. Translational studies showing that dietary-induced alterations in microbial communities recapitulate some of the pathological features of the original host further support this notion. In this introductory paper by the European project MyNewGut, we briefly summarize the investigations conducted to better understand the role of dietary patterns and food components in metabolic and mental health and the specificities of the microbiome-mediating mechanisms.

We also discuss how advances in the understanding of the microbiome’s role in dietary health effects can help to provide acceptable scientific grounds on which to base dietary advice for promoting healthy living.