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Food phytochemicals are increasingly considered to play a key role in the cardiometabolic health effects of plant foods. However, the heterogeneity in responsiveness to their intake frequently observed in clinical trials can hinder the beneficial effects of these compounds in specific subpopulations. A range of factors, including genetic background, gut microbiota, age, sex and health status, could be involved in these interindividual variations; however, the current knowledge is limited and fragmented. The European network, European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)-POSITIVe, has analysed, in a systematic way, existing knowledge with the aim to better understand the factors responsible for the interindividual variation in response to the consumption of the major families of plant food bioactives, regarding their bioavailability and bioefficacy. If differences in bioavailability, likely reflecting differences in human subjects’ genetics or in gut microbiota composition and functionality, are believed to underpin much of the interindividual variability, the key molecular determinants or microbial species remain to be identified. The systematic analysis of published studies conducted to assess the interindividual variation in biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk suggested some factors (such as adiposity and health status) as involved in between-subject variation. However, the contribution of these factors is not demonstrated consistently across the different compounds and biological outcomes and would deserve further investigations. The findings of the network clearly highlight that the human subjects’ intervention studies published so far are not adequate to investigate the relevant determinants of the absorption/metabolism and biological responsiveness. They also emphasise the need for a new generation of intervention studies designed to capture this interindividual variation.
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