The use of an in vitro fecal fermentation model to uncover the beneficial role of omega-3 and punicic acid in gut microbiota alterations induced by a Western diet

Food Funct. 2024 Jun 4;15(11):6095-6117. doi: 10.1039/d4fo00727a.


The influence of gut microbiota in the onset and development of several metabolic diseases has gained attention over the last few years. Diet plays an essential role in gut microbiota modulation. Western diet (WD), characterized by high-sugar and high-fat consumption, alters gut microbiome composition, diversity index, microbial relative levels, and functional pathways. Despite the promising health effects demonstrated by polyunsaturated fatty acids, their impact on gut microbiota is still overlooked. The effect of Fish oil (omega-3 source) and Pomegranate oil (punicic acid source), and a mixture of both oils in gut microbiota modulation were determined by subjecting the oil samples to in vitro fecal fermentations. Cecal samples from rats from two different dietary groups: a control diet (CD) and a high-fat high-sugar diet (WD), were used as fecal inoculum. 16S amplicon metagenomics sequencing showed that Fish oil + Pomegranate oil from the WD group increased α-diversity. This sample can also increase the relative abundance of the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phylum as well as Akkermansia and Blautia, which were affected by the WD consumption. All samples were able to increase butyrate and acetate concentration in the WD group. Moreover, tyrosine concentrations, a precursor for dopamine and norepinephrine, increase in the Fish oil + Pomegranate oil WD sample. GABA, an important neurotransmitter, was also increased in WD samples. These results suggest a potential positive impact of these oils' mixture on gut-brain axis modulation. It was demonstrated, for the first time, the great potential of using a mixture of both Fish and Pomegranate oil to restore the gut microbiota changes associated with WD consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria* / classification
  • Bacteria* / drug effects
  • Bacteria* / genetics
  • Bacteria* / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria* / metabolism
  • Cecum / metabolism
  • Cecum / microbiology
  • Diet, Western* / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3* / pharmacology
  • Feces* / microbiology
  • Fermentation*
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / drug effects
  • Linolenic Acids / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Pomegranate / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • punicic acid
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Linolenic Acids
  • Fish Oils
  • Plant Oils