Ground flaxseed reverses protection of a reduced-fat diet against Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2018 Nov 1;315(5):G788-G798. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00101.2018. Epub 2018 Aug 10.


Flaxseed is high in ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and lignans known to lower cholesterol levels. However, its use for prevention or treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases has yielded mixed results, perhaps related to dietary interactions. In this study, we evaluated the impact of ground flaxseed supplementation on the severity of Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis in the setting of either a high-fat (HF, ~36%kcal) or reduced-fat (RF, ~12%kcal) diet. After weaning, C57BL/6 mice ( n = 8-15/treatment) were fed ground flaxseed (7 g/100 g diet) with either HF (HF Flx) or RF (RF Flx) diets for 4 wk before infection with C. rodentium or sham gavage. Weight changes, mucosal inflammation, pathogen burden, gut microbiota composition, tissue polyunsaturated fatty acids, and cecal short-chain fatty acids were compared over a 14-day infection period. The RF diet protected against C. rodentium-induced colitis, whereas the RF Flx diet increased pathogen burden, exacerbated gut inflammation, and promoted gut dysbiosis. When compared with the RF diet, both HF and HF Flx diets resulted in more severe pathology in response to C. rodentium infection. Our findings demonstrate that although an RF diet protected against C. rodentium-induced colitis and associated gut dysbiosis in mice, beneficial effects were diminished with ground flaxseed supplementation. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Our results demonstrate a strong protective effect of a reduced-fat diet against intestinal inflammation, dysbiosis, and pathogen burden during Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis. However, ground flaxseed supplementation in the setting of a reduced-fat diet exacerbated colitis despite higher levels of intestinal n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cecal short-chain fatty acids.

Keywords: flaxseed; gut dysbiosis; inflammation; polyunsaturated fatty acids; reduced-fat diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Citrobacter rodentium / drug effects
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / diet therapy*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / microbiology
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted*
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections / diet therapy*
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections / microbiology
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / adverse effects*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology
  • Flax / chemistry*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated