How Does Fiber Intake Affect the Microbiome?

New Findings Point to the Importance of a Fiber-Rich Diet

            When many people think of fiber, images of strange breakfast cereals and powdery supplement pills may come to mind.  Most know enough to associate the nutrient with healthy bowel movements.  The full truth, of course, is more complicated.  Potential sources of fiber are far more diverse; and the health implications are much farther reaching.  By cultivating a better understanding of what fiber is and how it affects the body, public attitudes (and thus public health) can be improved.

Fiber and the Microbiome

            The human microbiome is comprised of trillions of individual microbiota and tens of thousands of different species of microbiota. Though this may give the germaphobes out there a small heart attack, the truth is that these microbes are not only safe; they are extremely important to the healthy functioning of the digestive system. Unfortunately, the modern American diet (rife with processed foods) does not always lend itself to creating a balanced microbiome.  One area of interest that scientists are beginning to identify is the effect of fiber on the microbiome.  As it turns out, a low fiber diet can have negative effects on microbial diversity in the human digestive system.

Long-Term Effects

            Perhaps even more disturbingly, scientists discovered that this diversity is very difficult to recuperate once it is lost. Simply put, fiber can support a healthy and diverse microbiome, but it will not cultivate one. This implies that fiber intake is even more important than initially thought.

Diet as a Lifestyle

            Last but not least, it is important to note that these findings reflect the effects of a diet sustained over a significant period of time.  In other words, skipping out on fiber rich foods for a few days is not going to cause a serious long-term problem; and neither will popping a couple of fiber supplements or eating a slice of whole bread make up for a pattern of low-fiber eating.


            CosmosID is excited to be part of the ongoing scientific mission to learn more about the human digestive system.  Our company specializes in bioinformatics, and is focused on identifying microorganisms in order to aid scientists, doctors, and health-related projects of all kinds.