Whole grain-rich diet reduces body weight and systemic low-grade inflammation without inducing major changes of the gut microbiome: a randomised cross-over trial.

Gut. 2019;68(1):83-93

Plain language summary

Whole grain consumption has been linked with decreased risk of lifestyle-related diseases. While animal studies have shown the gut microbiome to be a mediator of metabolic health, human studies examining the effect of whole grain intake of the gut remain inconclusive. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of a whole grain diet on the gut microbiome, gut functionality and biomarkers of metabolic health. In this randomised, controlled, crossover study, 50 participants completed two 8-week dietary intervention periods comprising of a whole grain diet and a refined grain diet with a 6-week washout period. Examinations were done at the beginning and end of each intervention period to assess anthropometry and various plasma and gut markers. This study found that a whole grain diet as compared with a refined grain diet reduced energy intake and body weight as well as circulating markers of inflammation. Contrary to the hypothesis, these benefits were all observed independent of changes in the gut microbiome. Based on these results, the authors conclude higher intake of whole grains should be recommended to those at risk of inflammation-related disease.


OBJECTIVE To investigate whether a whole grain diet alters the gut microbiome and insulin sensitivity, as well as biomarkers of metabolic health and gut functionality. DESIGN 60 Danish adults at risk of developing metabolic syndrome were included in a randomised cross-over trial with two 8-week dietary intervention periods comprising whole grain diet and refined grain diet, separated by a washout period of ≥6 weeks. The response to the interventions on the gut microbiome composition and insulin sensitivity as well on measures of glucose and lipid metabolism, gut functionality, inflammatory markers, anthropometry and urine metabolomics were assessed. RESULTS 50 participants completed both periods with a whole grain intake of 179±50 g/day and 13±10 g/day in the whole grain and refined grain period, respectively. Compliance was confirmed by a difference in plasma alkylresorcinols (p<0.0001). Compared with refined grain, whole grain did not significantly alter glucose homeostasis and did not induce major changes in the faecal microbiome. Also, breath hydrogen levels, plasma short-chain fatty acids, intestinal integrity and intestinal transit time were not affected. The whole grain diet did, however, compared with the refined grain diet, decrease body weight (p<0.0001), serum inflammatory markers, interleukin (IL)-6 (p=0.009) and C-reactive protein (p=0.003). The reduction in body weight was consistent with a reduction in energy intake, and IL-6 reduction was associated with the amount of whole grain consumed, in particular with intake of rye. CONCLUSION Compared with refined grain diet, whole grain diet did not alter insulin sensitivity and gut microbiome but reduced body weight and systemic low-grade inflammation. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER NCT01731366; Results.

Lifestyle medicine

Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Whole grains
Environmental Inputs : Nutrients ; Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood ; Stool ; Breath ; Urine ; Imaging
Bioactive Substances : IL-6

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 3
Allocation concealment : Yes


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Metabolic syndrome ; Microbiome