Plant-Based Diet Index and Metabolic Risk in Men: Exploring the Role of the Gut Microbiome

Yanping Li, Dong D. Wang, Ambika Satija, Kerry L. Ivey, Jun Li, Jeremy E. Wilkinson, Ruifeng Li, Megu Baden, Andrew T. Chan, Curtis Huttenhower, Eric B. Rimm, Frank B. Hu, Qi Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Healthy plant-based diet index (hPDI) is associated with a lower risk of cardiometabolic conditions, but its association as well as interactions with microbiome have not been elucidated. Objectives: We aimed to investigate the interrelations between hPDI, gut microbiome, and cardiometabolic risk markers. Methods: hPDI was derived from dietary assessments by a validated FFQ and was examined in relation to metagenomic profiles of 911 fecal samples collected from 303 men aged 71 ± 4 y with an average BMI (in kg/m2) of 25.2 ± 3.6 in the Men's Lifestyle Validation Study. Principal coordinate (PCo) analysis based on Bray-Curtis dissimilarity was conducted, and interactions between hPDI and PCo were examined by using a metabolic risk score composed of blood lipids, BMI, and glycated hemoglobin. Results: After multivariable adjustment, hPDI was significantly associated with the relative abundance of 7 species and 9 pathways. In particular, higher hPDI was significantly associated with a higher relative abundance of Bacteroides cellulosilyticus and Eubacterium eligens, amino acid biosynthesis pathways (l-isoleucine biosynthesis I and III and l-valine biosynthesis), and the pathway of pyruvate fermentation to isobutanol. A favorable association between hPDI and the metabolic risk score was more pronounced among men with a higher PCo characterized by higher abundance of Bacteroides uniformis and lower abundance of Prevotella copri. At the individual species level, a similar interaction was also observed between hPDI and P. copri, as well as with Clostridium clostridioforme or Blautia hydrogenotrophica (all P-interaction < 0.01). Conclusion: A greater adherence to a healthy plant-based diet by older men was associated with a microbial profile characterized by a higher abundance of multiple species, including B. cellulosilyticus and E. eligens, as well as pathways in amino acid metabolism and pyruvate fermentation. In addition, inverse associations between healthy plant-based diet and human metabolic risk may partially depend on microbial compositions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2780-2789
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Sep 2021


  • diet
  • metabolic
  • microbiome
  • plant-based diet index
  • species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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