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. IMPORTANCE Dietary flavonoids, which have been implicated in lowering chronic disease risk and improving blood pressure, represent a diverse group of polyphenolic compounds found in many commonly consumed foods such as tea, red wine, apples, and berries. The bioactivity and bioavailability of more dietary flavonoids can be influenced by gastrointestinal microbiome metabolism. With demonstrated prebiotic and antimicrobial effects in in vitro and in animal models, it is surprising that there are not many human studies investigating the role dietary flavonoids play in shaping the gastrointestinal microbiome. Our analysis revealed patterns of community assembly that uniquely and independently characterize an individual’s exposure to various fla- vonoid compounds. Furthermore, this study confirmed, independent from effects of other dietary and lifestyle factors included in the multivariate-adjusted model, that flavonoid intake is associated with microbial community assembly.
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