Effects of a Vegetarian Diet on Cardiometabolic Risk Factors, Gut Microbiota, and Plasma Metabolome in Subjects With Ischemic Heart Disease: A Randomized, Crossover Study


Demir Djekic, Lin Shi, Harald Brolin, Frida Carlsson, Charlotte Särnqvist, Otto Savolainen, Yang Cao, Fredrik Bäckhed, Valentina Tremaroli, Rikard Landberg, Ole Frøbert

Year Published: 



J Am Heart Assoc.


Study Design: 

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Background A vegetarian diet (VD) may reduce future cardiovascular risk in patients with ischemic heart disease. Methods and Results A randomized crossover study was conducted in subjects with ischemic heart disease, assigned to 4-week intervention periods of isocaloric VD and meat diet (MD) with individually designed diet plans, separated by a 4-week washout period. The primary outcome was difference in oxidized low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) between diets. Secondary outcomes were differences in cardiometabolic risk factors, quality of life, gut microbiota, fecal short-chain and branched-chain fatty acids, and plasma metabolome. Of 150 eligible patients, 31 (21%) agreed to participate, and 27 (87%) participants completed the study. Mean oxidized LDL-C (-2.73 U/L), total cholesterol (-5.03 mg/dL), LDL-C (-3.87 mg/dL), and body weight (-0.67 kg) were significantly lower with the VD than with the MD. Differences between VD and MD were observed in the relative abundance of several microbe genera within the families Ruminococcaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Akkermansiaceae. Plasma metabolites, including l-carnitine, acylcarnitine metabolites, and phospholipids, differed in subjects consuming VD and MD. The effect on oxidized LDL-C in response to the VD was associated with a baseline gut microbiota composition dominated by several genera of Ruminococcaceae. Conclusions The VD in conjunction with optimal medical therapy reduced levels of oxidized LDL-C, improved cardiometabolic risk factors, and altered the relative abundance of gut microbes and plasma metabolites in patients with ischemic heart disease. Our results suggest that composition of the gut microbiota at baseline may be related to the reduction of oxidized LDL-C observed with the VD. Registration URL: https://www.clini​caltr​ials.gov; Unique identifier: NCT02942628.