Differential Effects of Western and Mediterranean-Type Diets on Gut Microbiota: A Metagenomics and Metabolomics Approach

Nutrients. 2021 Jul 30;13(8):2638. doi: 10.3390/nu13082638.


Our aim was to determine the effect of diet on gut microbiota, digestive function and sensations, using an integrated clinical, metagenomics and metabolomics approach. We conducted a cross-over, randomised study on the effects of a Western-type diet versus a fibre-enriched Mediterranean diet. In 20 healthy men, each diet was administered for 2 weeks preceded by a 2-week washout diet. The following outcomes were recorded: (a) number of anal gas evacuations; (b) digestive sensations; (c) volume of gas evacuated after a probe meal; (d) colonic content by magnetic resonance imaging; (e) gut microbiota taxonomy and metabolic functions by shotgun sequencing of faecal samples; (f) urinary metabolites using untargeted metabolomics. As compared to a Western diet, the Mediterranean diet was associated with (i) higher number of anal gas evacuations, (ii) sensation of flatulence and borborygmi, (iii) larger volume of gas after the meal and (iv) larger colonic content. Despite the relatively little difference in microbiota composition between both diets, microbial metabolism differed substantially, as shown by urinary metabolite profiles and the abundance of microbial metabolic pathways. The effects of the diet were less evident in individuals with robust microbiotas (higher beta-diversity). To conclude, healthy individuals tolerate dietary changes with minor microbial modifications at the composition level but with remarkable variation in microbial metabolism.

Keywords: Mediterranean-type diet; Western-type diet; digestive sensations; gut microbiota; intestinal gas; metabolomics; metagenomics.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biodiversity
  • Colon
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Diet, Western*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Flatulence
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolomics
  • Metagenomics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult