Nuts contain fibre, unsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols that may impact the composition of the gut microbiota and overall gut health. This study aimed to assess the impact of nuts on gut microbiota, gut function and gut symptoms via a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in healthy adults. Eligible RCTs were identified by systematic searches of five electronic databases, hand searching of conference abstracts, clinical trials databases, back-searching reference lists and contact with key stakeholders. Eligible studies were RCTs administering tree nuts or peanuts in comparison to control, measuring any outcome related to faecal microbiota, function or symptoms. Two reviewers independently screened papers, performed data extraction and risk of bias assessment. Outcome data were synthesised as weighted mean difference (WMD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) using a random effects model. This review was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42019138169). Eight studies reporting nine RCTs were included, investigating almonds (n = 5), walnuts (n = 3) and pistachios (n = 1). Nut consumption significantly increased Clostridium (SMD: 0.40; 95% CI, 0.10, 0.71; p = 0.01), Dialister (SMD: 0.44; 95% CI, 0.13, 0.75; p = 0.005), Lachnospira (SMD: 0.33; 95% CI, 0.02, 0.64; p = 0.03) and Roseburia (SMD: 0.36; 95% CI, 0.10, 0.62; p = 0.006), and significantly decreased Parabacteroides (SMD: -0.31; 95% CI, -0.62, -0.00; p = 0.05). There was no effect of nuts on bacterial phyla, diversity or stool output. Further parallel design RCTs, powered to detect changes in faecal microbiota and incorporating functional and clinical outcomes, are needed.
Keywords: adults; almond; diversity; gut function; gut symptoms; microbiome; microbiota; nuts; pistachio; walnut.