High fiber diets have been associated with improved cardiometabolic health with specific efforts to lower circulating levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol). Whole grain and grain-based foods are major contributors of dietary fiber in the American diet, of which wheat has been extensively studied. Corn, however, has not been well studied for its cholesterol-lowering properties. Further, the mechanisms by which grains improve cardiometabolic health require further exploration with regard to the human microbiome. The objective of this single-blind randomized controlled, crossover trial was to assess the impact of three different corn flours (whole grain, refined, and bran-enhanced refined flour mixture) on serum LDL cholesterol and the gut microbiota diversity and composition. Twenty-three participants were recruited, between the ages of 18-70 with hypercholesterolemia (Male = 10, Female = 13, LDL >120 mg/dL) who were not taking any cholesterol-lowering medications. Participants consumed each flour mixture for 4 weeks prepared as muffins and pita breads. At the beginning and end of each 4-week period serum for cholesterol assessment, anthropometrics, and stool samples were obtained. Serum cholesterol was assessed using a clinical analyzer. Stool samples were processed, and microbial DNA extracted and sequenced based on the 16S rRNA gene. A generalized linear model demonstrated a significant treatment effect (p=0.016) on LDL cholesterol and explained a majority of the variance (R-squared= 0.89). Post hoc tests revealed bran-enhanced refined flour had a significant effect on cholesterol in comparison to whole grain flour (p=0.001). No statistically significant differences were observed for gut microbial community composition (Jaccard and weighted Unifrac) after corn consumption. However, relative abundance analysis (LEfSE) identified Mycobacterium celatum (p=0.048 FDR=0.975) as a potential marker of post-corn consumption with this microbe being differentially less abundant following bran-enhanced flour treatment. These data suggest that corn flour consumption may be beneficial for individuals with hypercholesterolemia but the role of gut microbiota in this relationship requires further exploration, especially given the small sample size. Further research and analysis of a fully powered cohort is needed to more accurately describe the associations and potential mechanisms of corn-derived dietary fiber on circulating LDL cholesterol and the gut microbiota.
- Evaluation of the Effects of Corn Flour Consumption on Cardiometabolic Outcomes and the Gut Microbiota in Adults with High Cholesterol
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- Partial requirement for: Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2022
- Field of study: Exercise and Nutritional Sciences