Date of this Version
ISME Journal. 2013 Feb; 7(2): 269–280. Published online 2012 Oct 4. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.104 PMCID: PMC3554403 PMID: 23038174
The involvement of the gut microbiota in metabolic disorders, and the ability of whole grains to affect both host metabolism and gut microbial ecology, suggest that some benefits of whole grains are mediated through their effects on the gut microbiome. Nutritional studies that assess the effect of whole grains on both the gut microbiome and human physiology are needed. We conducted a randomized cross-over trial with four-week treatments in which 28 healthy humans consumed a daily dose of 60 g of whole-grain barley (WGB), brown rice (BR), or an equal mixture of the two (BR+WGB), and characterized their impact on fecal microbial ecology and blood markers of inflammation, glucose and lipid metabolism. All treatments increased microbial diversity, the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio, and the abundance of the genus Blautia in fecal samples. The inclusion of WGB enriched the genera Roseburia, Bifidobacterium and Dialister, and the species Eubacterium rectale, Roseburia faecis and Roseburia intestinalis. Whole grains, and especially the BR+WGB treatment, reduced plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6) and peak postprandial glucose. Shifts in the abundance of Eubacterium rectale were associated with changes in the glucose and insulin postprandial response. Interestingly, subjects with greater improvements in IL-6 levels harbored significantly higher proportions of Dialister and lower abundance of Coriobacteriaceae. In conclusion, this study revealed that a short-term intake of whole grains induced compositional alterations of the gut microbiota that coincided with improvements in host physiological measures related to metabolic dysfunctions in humans.