Analytic advances are enabling more precise definitions of the molecular composition of key food staples incorporated into contemporary diets and how the nutrient landscapes of these staples vary as a function of cultivar and food processing methods. This knowledge, combined with insights about the interrelationship between consumer microbiota configurations and biotransformation of food ingredients, should have a number of effects on agriculture, food production, and strategies for improving the nutritional value of foods and health status. These effects include decision-making about which cultivars of current or future food staples to incorporate into existing and future food systems, and which components of waste streams from current or future food manufacturing processes have nutritional value that is worth capturing. They can also guide which technologies should be applied, or need to be developed, to produce foods that support efficient microbial biotransformation of their ingredients into metabolic products that sustain health. In this Perspective, Barratt et al. propose the integration of preclinical models, food science technologies, and human studies to generate detailed knowledge of the biotransformation of food ingredients by consumers’ gut microbiota. This could alter traditional definitions of nutrient content and inform global efforts designed to produce affordable, healthier foods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-141
Number of pages8
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 9 2017


  • agricultural sustainability
  • biochemical characterization of food staples
  • designing food systems
  • dietary glycans
  • food science
  • gnotobiotic animal models
  • gut microbiota
  • microbial biotransformation of food ingredients
  • microbiota-directed foods


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