New knowledge about the gut microbiota and its interaction with the host’s metabolic regulation has emerged during the last few decades. Several factors may affect the composition of the gut microbiota, including dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is not hydrolyzed by human digestive enzymes, but it is acted upon by gut microbes, and metabolites like short-chain fatty acids are produced. The short-chain fatty acids may be absorbed into the circulation and affect metabolic regulation in the host or be a substrate for other microbes. Some studies have shown improved insulin sensitivity, weight regulation, and reduced inflammation with increases in gut-derived short-chain fatty acids, all of which may reduce the risk of developing metabolic diseases. To what extent a dietary intervention with fiber may affect the human gut microbiota and hence metabolic regulation, is however, currently not well described. The aim of the present review is to summarize recent research on human randomized, controlled intervention studies investigating the effect of dietary fiber on gut microbiota and metabolic regulation. Metabolic regulation is discussed with respect to markers relating to glycemic regulation and lipid metabolism. Taken together, the papers on which the current review is based, suggest that dietary fiber has the potential to change the gut microbiota and alter metabolic regulation. However, due to the heterogeneity of the studies, a firm conclusion describing the causal relationship between gut microbiota and metabolic regulation remains elusive.
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