Vegan Diet Is Associated With Favorable Effects on the Metabolic Performance of Intestinal Microbiota: A Cross-Sectional Multi-Omics Study
Journal article, 2022

Background and Aim: Plant-based diets are associated with potential health benefits, but the contribution of gut microbiota remains to be clarified. We aimed to identify differences in key features of microbiome composition and function with relevance to metabolic health in individuals adhering to a vegan vs. omnivore diet. Methods: This cross-sectional study involved lean, healthy vegans (n = 62) and omnivore (n = 33) subjects. We assessed their glucose and lipid metabolism and employed an integrated multi-omics approach (16S rRNA sequencing, metabolomics profiling) to compare dietary intake, metabolic health, gut microbiome, and fecal, serum, and urine metabolomes. Results: The vegans had more favorable glucose and lipid homeostasis profiles than the omnivores. Long-term reported adherence to a vegan diet affected only 14.8% of all detected bacterial genera in fecal microbiome. However, significant differences in vegan and omnivore metabolomes were observed. In feces, 43.3% of all identified metabolites were significantly different between the vegans and omnivores, such as amino acid fermentation products p-cresol, scatole, indole, methional (lower in the vegans), and polysaccharide fermentation product short- and medium-chain fatty acids (SCFAs, MCFAs), and their derivatives (higher in the vegans). Vegan serum metabolome differed markedly from the omnivores (55.8% of all metabolites), especially in amino acid composition, such as low BCAAs, high SCFAs (formic-, acetic-, propionic-, butyric acids), and dimethylsulfone, the latter two being potential host microbiome co-metabolites. Using a machine-learning approach, we tested the discriminative power of each dataset. Best results were obtained for serum metabolome (accuracy rate 91.6%). Conclusion: While only small differences in the gut microbiota were found between the groups, their metabolic activity differed substantially. In particular, we observed a significantly different abundance of fermentation products associated with protein and carbohydrate intakes in the vegans. Vegans had significantly lower abundances of potentially harmful (such as p-cresol, lithocholic acid, BCAAs, aromatic compounds, etc.) and higher occurrence of potentially beneficial metabolites (SCFAs and their derivatives).

protein fermentation

short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)

vegan diet

omics signature

metabolic health


Magdalena Prochazkova

Kralovske Vinohrady University Hospital

Eva Budinska

Masaryk University

Marek Kuzma

Czech Academy of Sciences

Helena Pelantova

Czech Academy of Sciences

Jaromir Hradecky

Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS)

Marie Heczkova

Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine

Nikola Daskova

Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine

Charles University

Miriam Bratova

Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine

Istvan Modos

Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine

Petra Videnska

Masaryk University

Petra Splichalova

Masaryk University

Solomon A. Sowah

University Hospital Heidelberg

German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)

Maria Kralova

Masaryk University

Marina Henikova

Kralovske Vinohrady University Hospital

Eliska Selinger

Kralovske Vinohrady University Hospital

Krystof Klima

Czech Academy of Sciences

Karel Chalupsky

Czech Academy of Sciences

Radislav Sedlacek

Czech Academy of Sciences

Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science

Tilman Kühn

University Hospital Heidelberg

Queen's University Belfast

Jan Gojda

Kralovske Vinohrady University Hospital

Monika Cahova

Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine

Frontiers in Nutrition

2296861X (eISSN)

Vol. 8 783302

Subject Categories

Food Science


Nutrition and Dietetics





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1/3/2024 9