Dissecting the role of the gut microbiota and diet on visceral fat mass accumulation

Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 5;9(1):9758. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-46193-w.


Both gut microbiota and diet have been shown to impact visceral fat mass (VFM), a major risk factor for cardiometabolic disease, but their relative contribution has not been well characterised. We aimed to estimate and separate the effect of gut microbiota composition from that of nutrient intake on VFM in 1760 older female twins. Through pairwise association analyses, we identified 93 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and 10 nutrients independently linked to VFM (FDR < 5%). Conditional analyses revealed that the majority (87%) of the 93 VFM-associated OTUs remained significantly associated with VFM irrespective of nutrient intake correction. In contrast, we observed that the effect of fibre, magnesium, biotin and vitamin E on VFM was partially mediated by OTUs. Moreover, we estimated that OTUs were more accurate predictors of VFM than nutrients and accounted for a larger percentage of its variance. Our results suggest that while the role of certain nutrients on VFM appears to depend on gut microbiota composition, specific gut microbes may affect host adiposity regardless of dietary intake. The findings imply that the gut microbiota may have a greater contribution towards shaping host VFM than diet alone. Thus, microbial-based therapy should be prioritised for VFM reduction in overweight and obese subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Metagenomics
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrients
  • Organ Size