Background: Mammalian gut microbiota have been implicated in a variety of functions including the breakdown of ingested nutrients, the regulation of energy intake and storage, the control of immune system development and activity, and the synthesis of novel chemicals. Previous studies have shown that feeding mammalian hosts a high-fat diet shifts gut bacteria at the phylum level to reduce the ratio of Bacteroidetes-to-Firmicutes, while feeding hosts a fat-restricted diet increases this ratio. However, few studies have investigated the differential effects of fatty acid type on gut bacterial profile.
Methods: Over a 14-week period, Mus musculus were fed a diet rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-6 PUFAs), or saturated fatty acids (SFAs). Fecal pellets were collected before and after the treatment period from 12 randomly selected mice (4 per treatment group). Bacterial DNA was extracted from the pellets and characterized by analysis of the hypervariable V3 region of the 16S rRNA. Nominal logistic regression models were used to assess shifts in microbial profile at the phylum and family levels in response to diet.
Results: A significant decrease in the proportion of phylum Bacteroidetes species was observed for mice fed any of the three diets over time. However, the SFA-rich diet group showed a significantly greater decrease in Bacteroidetes proportion (-28%) than did either the n-3 PUFA group (-10%) or the n-6 PUFA group (-12%). At the family level, a significant decrease in proportion of Porphyromonadaceae was observed for mice fed the n-6 PUFA-rich diet, and a significant decrease in proportion of Lachnospiraceae was observed for mice fed the SFA-rich diet. There was no significant effect of diet type on body mass change.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that SFAs have stronger effects than PUFAs in shifting gut microbiota profiles toward those typical of obese individuals, and that dietary fatty acid saturation influences shifts in gut microbiota independently of changes in body mass.
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