Effects of a Low-Fat Vegan Diet on Gut Microbiota in Overweight Individuals and Relationships with Body Weight, Body Composition, and Insulin Sensitivity. A Randomized Clinical Trial
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Metabolic Unit, CNR Institute of Neuroscience, 35127 Padua, Italy
School of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84132, USA
uBiome Inc., San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
Department of Gastroenterology, Georgetown MedStar Hospital, Washington, DC 20007, USA
Adjunct Faculty, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC 20052, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2020, 12(10), 2917; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12102917
Received: 24 August 2020 / Revised: 18 September 2020 / Accepted: 20 September 2020 / Published: 24 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutrition and Microbiome)
Diet modulates gut microbiota and plays an important role in human health. The aim of this study was to test the effect of a low-fat vegan diet on gut microbiota and its association with weight, body composition, and insulin resistance in overweight men and women. We enrolled 168 participants and randomly assigned them to a vegan (n = 84) or a control group (n = 84) for 16 weeks. Of these, 115 returned all gut microbiome samples. Gut microbiota composition was assessed using uBiome Explorer™ kits. Body composition was measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Insulin sensitivity was quantified with the predicted clamp-derived insulin sensitivity index from a standard meal test. Repeated measure ANOVA was used for statistical analysis. Body weight decreased in the vegan group (treatment effect −5.9 kg [95% CI, −7.0 to −4.9 kg]; p < 0.001), mainly due to a reduction in fat mass (−3.9 kg [95% CI, −4.6 to −3.1 kg]; p < 0.001) and in visceral fat (−240 cm3 [95% CI, −345 to −135 kg]; p < 0.001). PREDIcted M, insulin sensitivity index (PREDIM) increased in the vegan group (treatment effect +0.83 [95% CI, +0.48 to +1.2]; p < 0.001). The relative abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii increased in the vegan group (+5.1% [95% CI, +2.4 to +7.9%]; p < 0.001) and correlated negatively with changes in weight (r = −0.24; p = 0.01), fat mass (r = −0.22; p = 0.02), and visceral fat (r = −0.20; p = 0.03). The relative abundance of Bacteroides fragilis decreased in both groups, but less in the vegan group, making the treatment effect positive (+18.9% [95% CI, +14.2 to +23.7%]; p < 0.001), which correlated negatively with changes in weight (r = −0.44; p < 0.001), fat mass (r = −0.43; p < 0.001), and visceral fat (r = −0.28; p = 0.003) and positively with PREDIM (r = 0.36; p < 0.001), so a smaller reduction in Bacteroides fragilis was associated with a greater loss of body weight, fat mass, visceral fat, and a greater increase in insulin sensitivity. A low-fat vegan diet induced significant changes in gut microbiota, which were related to changes in weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults, suggesting a potential use in clinical practice.