Purpose: Evidence exists regarding the beneficial effects of diets rich in plant-based foods regarding the prevention of cardiometabolic diseases. These plant-based foods are an exclusive and abundant source of a variety of biologically active phytochemicals, including polyphenols, carotenoids, glucosinolates and phytosterols, with known health-promoting effects through a wide range of biological activities, such as improvements in endothelial function, platelet function, blood pressure, blood lipid profile and insulin sensitivity. We know that an individual’s physical/genetic makeup may influence their response to a dietary intervention, and thereby may influence the benefit/risk associated with consumption of a particular dietary constituent. This inter-individual variation in responsiveness has also been described for dietary plant bioactives but has not been explored in depth. To address this issue, the European scientific experts involved in the COST Action POSITIVe systematically analyzed data from published studies to assess the inter-individual variation in selected clinical biomarkers associated with cardiometabolic risk, in response to the consumption of plant-based bioactives (poly)phenols and phytosterols. The present review summarizes the main findings resulting from the meta-analyses already completed. Results: Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials conducted within POSITIVe suggest that age, sex, ethnicity, pathophysiological status and medication may be responsible for the heterogeneity in the biological responsiveness to (poly)phenol and phytosterol consumption and could lead to inconclusive results in some clinical trials aiming to demonstrate the health effects of specific dietary bioactive compounds. However, the contribution of these factors is not yet demonstrated consistently across all polyphenolic groups and cardiometabolic outcomes, partly due to the heterogeneity in trial designs, low granularity of data reporting, variety of food vectors and target populations, suggesting the need to implement more stringent reporting practices in the future studies. Studies investigating the effects of genetic background or gut microbiome on variability were limited and should be considered in future studies. Conclusion: Understanding why some bioactive plant compounds work effectively in some individuals but not, or less, in others is crucial for a full consideration of these compounds in future strategies of personalized nutrition for a better prevention of cardiometabolic disease. However, there is also still a need for the development of a substantial evidence-base to develop health strategies, food products or lifestyle solutions that embrace this variability.
- Cardiometabolic diseases
- Gene expression