Influence of a 3-month low-calorie Mediterranean diet compared to the vegetarian diet on human gut microbiota and SCFA: the CARDIVEG Study

Giuditta Pagliai, Edda Russo, Elena Niccolai, Monica Dinu, Vincenzo Di Pilato, Alessandro Magrini, Gianluca Bartolucci, Simone Baldi, Marta Menicatti, Betti Giusti, Rossella Marcucci, Gian Maria Rossolini, Alessandro Casini, Francesco Sofi, Amedeo Amedei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: We evaluated the effect of low-calorie mediterranean (MD) and vegetarian (VD) diets on gut microbiome (GM) composition and short-chain-fatty acids (SCFA) production. Methods: We performed next generation sequencing (NGS) of 16S rRNA and SCFA analysis on fecal samples of 23 overweight omnivores (16 F; 7 M) with low-to-moderate cardiovascular risk. They were randomly assigned to a VD or MD, each lasting 3 months, with a crossover study design. Results: Dietary interventions did not produce significant diversity in the GM composition at higher ranks (family and above), neither between nor within MD and VD, but they did it at genus level. MD significantly changed the abundance of Enterorhabdus, Lachnoclostridium and Parabacteroides, while VD significantly affected the abundance of Anaerostipes, Streptococcus, Clostridium sensu stricto, and Odoribacter. Comparison of the mean variation of each SCFA between MD and VD showed an opposite and statistically significant trend for propionic acid (+ 10% vs − 28%, respectively, p = 0.034). In addition, variations of SCFA were negatively correlated with changes of some inflammatory cytokines such as VEGF, MCP-1, IL-17, IP-10 and IL-12, only after MD. Finally, correlation analyses showed a potential relationship—modulated by the two diets—between changes of genera and changes of clinical and biochemical parameters. Conclusions: A short-term dietary intervention with MD or VD does not induce major change in the GM, suggesting that a diet should last longer than 3 months for scratching the microbial resilience. Changes in SCFA production support their role in modulating the inflammatory response, thus mediating the anti-inflammatory and protective properties of MD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Cytokines
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Microbiota
  • SCFA
  • Vegetarian diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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