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Gut check: Our microbiome’s vitamin factory could redefine personal health

Gut check: Our microbiome’s vitamin factory could redefine personal health

In a recent study published in PLoS Pathogens, researchers explore the role of the human gut microbiome as a source of essential vitamins.

Study: Can we microbe-manage our vitamin acquisition for higher health? Image Credit: Lallapie / Shutterstock.com

Vitamin production by gut microbiota

Vitamins are essential micronutrients required for various metabolic and regulatory processes in all living organisms. Importantly, many vitamins can’t be synthesized by humans; subsequently, they have to be obtained from external sources.

Inside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, many microorganisms can produce vitamins de novo, a few of which include vitamin K and various B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and cobalamin. In reality, recent genome annotation studies have indicated that as much as 65% of human gut commensal microorganisms produce no less than one form of vitamin B, with some organisms producing all eight and others not involved in de novo vitamin synthesis. The gut microbiota can also be able to converting dietary vitamin A into its metabolites, which subsequently contributes to immune homeostasis and protection against pathogenic invasion.

Recent estimates indicate that as much as 30% of the really useful each day intake for these vitamins is produced by the gut microbiota. Nonetheless, this largely depends upon the person’s dietary habits and microbiome composition.

Vitamins also can exert useful effects on the gut microbiota by increasing the variety of commensal microorganisms, enhancing microbial diversity, changing the degrees of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), and adjusting barrier function and immune response capabilities. Moreover, vitamins exhibit antioxidant properties that may protect the host against infectious diseases by directly influencing the immune system or not directly through their impact on the redox state.

The role of pathogens within the GI tract

The presence of opportunistic pathogens like Candida albicans within the human GI tract can result in severe and potentially deadly invasive diseases. Notably, most people carry these pathogens of their GI tract without experiencing any infection, thus indicating a potentially commensal role of those organisms.

There are numerous benefits that may be attributed to the harboring of potential pathogenic species within the GI tract. For instance, C. albicans has been shown to provide high concentrations of riboflavin; nevertheless, the explanation for this overproduction stays unclear. Comparatively, other pathogens appear to stimulate the reactivity of neutrophils, thereby training the immune system to answer invasive infections.

Probiotics and food plan

As research has advanced our understanding of the microbiome’s necessary role in human health, probiotic foods, and supplements have grow to be increasingly popular. Probiotics typically include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, or Saccharomyces species, all of which may produce vitamins de novo.  

Certain dietary habits also can impact vitamin production. High carbohydrate and low-fat diets, for instance, have been linked to increased urinary riboflavin excretion, thus indicating a possible increase in riboflavin secretion by microbiota under these conditions.

Vitamin fortification and its impact on human health

Fortifying food products with vitamins is one approach that has been used to enhance the dietary quality of foods, particularly in high-income countries where diets are sometimes dominated by calorie-dense and low-nutrient food products.

Along with fortified foods, vitamin supplementation is one other way through which individuals can make sure that they’re meeting their each day vitamin requirements; nevertheless, the scientific evidence supporting the advantages of vitamin supplementation is unclear. For instance, the excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K can accumulate in adipose tissue, thereby resulting in hostile health effects.

Moreover, there’s some research indicating that the high doses which can be often utilized in oral vitamin supplements can disrupt microbiome-host interactions by altering competitive or syntrophic interactions between gut microbes. For instance, previous in vivo studies in mice have shown that supplementation with vitamin B12 promotes colonization and pathogenesis of a mouse-specific pathogen referred to as Citrobacter rodentium by interfering with Lachnospiraceae activities.


The study findings emphasize the importance of the commensal relationship between the gut microbiota and the human host through its role as a source of critical vitamins. Further research is required to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of communication between the microbiome and human host to discern the impact of those microorganisms on human health and potentially discover latest therapeutic targets.


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