Dietary fat, the gut microbiota, and metabolic health - A systematic review conducted within the MyNewGut project

Clin Nutr. 2019 Dec;38(6):2504-2520. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.12.024. Epub 2018 Dec 24.


Background and aims: Studies indicate that dietary fat quantity and quality influence the gut microbiota composition which may as a consequence impact metabolic health. This systematic review aims to summarize the results of available studies in humans on dietary fat intake (quantity and quality), the intestinal microbiota composition and related cardiometabolic health outcomes.

Methods: We performed a systematic review (CRD42018088685) following PRISMA guidelines and searched for literature in Medline, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases.

Results: From 796 records, 765 records were excluded based on title or abstract. After screening of 31 full-text articles six randomized controlled trials (RCT) and nine cross-sectional observational studies were included. Our results of interventional trials do not suggest strong effects of different amounts and types of dietary fat on the intestinal microbiota composition or on metabolic health outcomes while observational studies indicate associations with the microbiota and health outcomes. High intake of fat and saturated fatty acids (SFA) may negatively affect microbiota richness and diversity and diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) may decrease total bacterial numbers whereas dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) had no effect on richness and diversity.

Conclusions: High fat and high SFA diets can exert unfavorable effects on the gut microbiota and are associated with an unhealthy metabolic state. Also high MUFA diets may negatively affect gut microbiota whereas PUFA do not seem to negatively affect the gut microbiota or metabolic health outcomes. However, data are not consistent and most RCT and observational studies showed risks of bias.

Keywords: Fat; Fatty acids; Intestinal microbiota; Metabolic health; Saturated fatty acids; Unsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diet* / methods
  • Diet* / statistics & numerical data
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Fats