Food and Behaviour Research

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Causal relationships among the gut microbiome, short-chain fatty acids and metabolic diseases

Sanna S, van Zuydam NR, Mahajan A, Kurilshikov A, Vich Vila A, Võsa U, Mujagic Z, Masclee AAM, Jonkers DMAE, Oosting M, Joosten LAB, Netea MG, Franke L, Zhernakova A, Fu J, Wijmenga C, McCarthy MI (2019) Nat Genet.  2019 Feb.  doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0350-x. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Microbiome-wide association studies on large population cohorts have highlighted associations between the gut microbiome and complex traits, including type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity. However, the causal relationships remain largely unresolved.

We leveraged information from 952 normoglycemic individuals for whom genome-wide genotyping, 
gut metagenomic sequence and fecal short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels were available, then combined this information with genome-wide-association summary statistics for 17 metabolic and anthropometric traits. Using bidirectional Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses to assess causality3, we found that the host-genetic-driven increase in gutproduction of the SCFA butyrate was associated with improved insulin response after an oral glucose-tolerance test (P = 9.8 × 10-5), whereas abnormalities in the production or absorption of another SCFA, propionate, were causally related to an increased risk of T2D (P = 0.004).

These data provide evidence of a 
causal effect of the gut microbiome on metabolic traits and support the use of MR as a means to elucidate causal relationships from microbiome-wide association findings.