The results of a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggest that modifiable behaviors, such as diet and physical activity, may influence the gut microbiota in ways that impact cardiometabolic risk factors. Meyer (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and co-authors concluded that physical activity and diet quality, in a demographically diverse cohort of middle-aged Black and White adults, were associated with gut microbiota consistent with pathways related to cardiometabolic health.

Animal and human studies indicate that physical activity and diet influence gut microbiota composition and function, suggesting that microbiota-related health effects may be modifiable. However, the type and duration of physical activity and dietary habits necessary for substantial change to the gut microbiome are not known. Studies generally have not included both short- and longer-term measures of physical activity and diet, which may be distinctly relevant for gut microbial community composition.

To bridge this knowledge gap, the authors used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, a prospective cohort of self-reported Black and White US adults, to investigate associations between gut microbial composition, physical activity, and diet. Data were collected over 30 years and included sociodemographic information, measures of diet quality, and assessment of physical activity and other health behaviors. At the 30 year of follow-up, fecal samples were collected from a subsample of participants and gut microbial compositional measures were generated for analysis.

Participants’ microbial community compositions differed significantly with respect to both current and long-term physical activity and diet quality. Physical activity and diet quality were associated with genera consistent with pathways related to inflammation and short-chain fatty acid production. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that higher physical activity and improved diet quality may influence the gut microbial composition in ways that are beneficial to health. 


Memili A, Lulla A, Liu H, Shikany JM, Jacobs DR, Langsetmo L, North KE, Jones C, Launer LJ, Meyre KA. Physical activity and diet associations with the gut Microbiota in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 552-561,

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