Limited research evidence exists on the effects of red meat on gut microbiota in human adults.


We aim to assess the effects of consuming a Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern (HDP), without or with unprocessed or processed lean red meat, on gut microbiota and fecal short-chain fatty acids levels (SCFA) in healthy young adults. Secondary outcomes are cardiovascular disease risk factors.


We conducted a randomized-controlled, cross-over trial with three 3-week dietary interventions, each separated by a 5-week washout period with habitual dietary intake. Nineteen participants (8 females, age 26 ± 4 years old, BMI 23 ± 3 kg/m2) consumed three study diets in random order: 1) healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (LOV); 2) LOV plus 3 ounces/day of cooked unprocessed lean red meat (URM); and 3) LOV plus 3 ounces/day of cooked processed lean red meat (PRM). Fecal and fasting blood samples were collected before and during the last 2 weeks of each intervention. We measured fecal bacterial community structure using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing (V4 region, primers 515F-806R). Community diversity, structure, and taxonomic composition were computed using Mothur v.1.44.3.


The addition of unprocessed or processed lean red meats to a LOV HDP did not influence short-term changes in bacterial taxonomic composition. Independent of red meat intake, the HDP led to changes in 23 bacteria; reductions in serum total cholesterol (TC) and LDL-C concentrations; but no changes in fecal SCFA, serum triglycerides, HDL-C, TC/HDL-C ratio, or blood pressures. With data from all 3 diet interventions combined, changes in some bacteria were associated with improvements in TC, LDL-C, HDL-C, TC/HDL-C ratio, and triglycerides.


Healthy young adults who adopt a HDP that may be vegetarian or omnivorous only including lean red meat experience short-term changes in gut microbial composition, which associate with improvements in multiple lipid-related cardiovascular risk factors.

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ScienceDirect – The Journal of Nutrition