Gut microbiota modulation with long-chain corn bran arabinoxylan in adults with overweight and obesity is linked to an individualized temporal increase in fecal propionate

Nguyen K. Nguyen, Edward C. Deehan, Zhengxiao Zhang, Mingliang Jin, Nami Baskota, Maria Elisa Perez-Muñoz, Janis Cole, Yunus E. Tuncil, Benjamin Seethaler, Ting Wang, Martine Laville, Nathalie M. Delzenne, Stephan C. Bischoff, Bruce R. Hamaker, Inés Martínez, Dan Knights, Jeffrey A. Bakal, Carla M. Prado, Jens Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Variability in the health effects of dietary fiber might arise from inter-individual differences in the gut microbiota's ability to ferment these substrates into beneficial metabolites. Our understanding of what drives this individuality is vastly incomplete and will require an ecological perspective as microbiomes function as complex inter-connected communities. Here, we performed a parallel two-arm, exploratory randomized controlled trial in 31 adults with overweight and class-I obesity to characterize the effects of long-chain, complex arabinoxylan (n = 15) at high supplementation doses (female: 25 g/day; male: 35 g/day) on gut microbiota composition and short-chain fatty acid production as compared to microcrystalline cellulose (n = 16, non-fermentable control), and integrated the findings using an ecological framework.

RESULTS: Arabinoxylan resulted in a global shift in fecal bacterial community composition, reduced α-diversity, and the promotion of specific taxa, including operational taxonomic units related to Bifidobacterium longum, Blautia obeum, and Prevotella copri. Arabinoxylan further increased fecal propionate concentrations (p = 0.012, Friedman's test), an effect that showed two distinct groupings of temporal responses in participants. The two groups showed differences in compositional shifts of the microbiota (p ≤ 0.025, PERMANOVA), and multiple linear regression (MLR) analyses revealed that the propionate response was predictable through shifts and, to a lesser degree, baseline composition of the microbiota. Principal components (PCs) derived from community data were better predictors in MLR models as compared to single taxa, indicating that arabinoxylan fermentation is the result of multi-species interactions within microbiomes.

CONCLUSION: This study showed that long-chain arabinoxylan modulates both microbiota composition and the output of health-relevant SCFAs, providing information for a more targeted application of this fiber. Variation in propionate production was linked to both compositional shifts and baseline composition, with PCs derived from shifts of the global microbial community showing the strongest associations. These findings constitute a proof-of-concept for the merit of an ecological framework that considers features of the wider gut microbial community for the prediction of metabolic outcomes of dietary fiber fermentation. This provides a basis to personalize the use of dietary fiber in nutritional application and to stratify human populations by relevant gut microbiota features to account for the inconsistent health effects in human intervention studies.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:, NCT02322112 , registered on July 3, 2015. Video Abstract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 19 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Arabinoxylan
  • Dietary fiber
  • Gut microbiota
  • Inter-individual variability
  • Overweight adults
  • Short-chain fatty acids

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article
  • Video-Audio Media


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