There is a broad consensus in nutritional-microbiota research that high-fat (HF) diets are harmful to human health, at least in part through their modulation of the gut microbiota. However, various studies also support the inherent flexibility of the human gut and our microbiota’s ability to adapt to a variety of food sources, suggesting a more nuanced picture. In this article, we first discuss some problems facing basic translational research and provide a different framework for thinking about diet and gut health in terms of metabolic flexibility. We then offer evidence that well-formulated HF diets, such as ketogenic diets, may provide healthful alternative fuel sources for the human gut. We place this in the context of cancer research, where this concern over HF diets is also expressed, and consider various potential objections concerning the effects of lipopolysaccharides, trimethylamine-N-oxide, and secondary bile acids on human gut health. We end by providing some general suggestions for how to improve research and clinical practice with respect to the gut microbiota when considering the framework of metabolic flexibility.

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