Successful elevation of circulating acetate and propionate by dietary modulation does not alter T-regulatory cell or cytokine profiles in healthy humans: a pilot study

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Purpose: Increased circulating concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) achieved by ingestion of high-fibre diets is associated with anti-inflammatory effects through promotion of FoxP3+ regulatory T(reg) cells in mouse models. This study aimed to determine whether similar increments in blood SCFA levels can be achieved in humans and whether these are associated with similar immune modulatory effects. Methods: In a pilot single-blinded, randomised, controlled cross-over study in ten healthy subjects, the effects were determined of high- (39 g/day) and low-fibre (18 g/day) intake (all food provided) on SCFA (gas chromatography), proportions of Treg cells (flow cytometry) and a panel of cytokines (multiplex methodology) measured in peripheral blood at day 5 of each diet. Results: Actual fibre intake differed between the diets by 19 [16–21] g/day (P< 0.001). Median [range] total plasma SCFA levels with high-fibre intake were 174.5 [104.8–249.5] µmol/L, which were greater than those associated with low-fibre intake at 59.0 [26.5–79.9] (P < 0.001). Differences were significantly different for both acetate and propionate. The frequencies of total CD4 T cells and T-regulatory cells, and concentrations of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines were not significantly different between the dietary interventions. Conclusions: Plasma SCFA levels can be modulated by altering dietary fibre consumption in healthy individuals with increments similar to those achieved in murine studies. Five days of diet intervention did not result in changes in regulatory T-cell proportions and cytokine concentrations in peripheral blood, and may require longer duration of dietary change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2651–2661
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Acetate
  • Dietary fibre
  • Fermentation
  • Inflammation
  • SCFA
  • T-regulatory cell

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