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Food Science and Human Nutrition, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine

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The increasing recognition that the gut microbiota plays a central role in behavior and cognition suggests that the manipulation of microbial taxa through diet may provide a means by which behavior may be altered in a reproducible and consistent manner in order to achieve a beneficial outcome for the host. Resistant starch continues to receive attention as a dietary intervention that can benefit the host through mechanisms that include altering the intestinal microbiota. Given the interest in dietary approaches to improve health, the aim of this study was to investigate whether the use of dietary resistant starch in mice to alter the gut microbiota also results in a change in behavior. Forty-eight 6 week-old male Swiss-Webster mice were randomly assigned to 3 treatment groups (n = 16 per group) and fed either a normal corn starch diet (NCS) or diets rich in resistant starches HA7 diet (HA7) or octenyl-succinate HA7 diet (OS-HA7) for 6 week and monitored for weight, behavior and fecal microbiota composition. Animals fed an HA7 diet displayed comparable weight gain over the feeding period to that recorded for NCS-fed animals while OS-HA7 displayed a lower weight gain as compared to either NCS or HA7 animals (ANOVA p = 0.0001; NCS:HA7 p = 0.244; HA7:OS-HA7 p<0.0001; NCS:OS-HA7 p<0.0001). Analysis of fecal microbiota using 16s rRNA gene taxonomic profiling revealed that each diet corresponded with a unique gut microbiota. The distribution of taxonomic classes was dynamic over the 6 week feeding period for each of the diets. At the end of the feeding periods, the distribution of taxa included statistically significant increases in members of the phylum Proteobacteria in OS-HA7 fed mice, while the Verrucomicrobia increased in HA7 fed mice over that of mice fed OS-HA7. At the class level, members of the class Bacilli decreased in the OS-HA7 fed group, and Actinobacteria, which includes the genus Bifidobacteria, was enriched in the HA7 fed group compared to the control diet. Behavioral analysis revealed that animals demonstrated profound anxiety-like behavior as observed by performance on the elevated-plus maze with time spent by the mice in the open arm (ANOVA p = 0.000; NCS:HA7 p = 0.004; NCS:OS-HA7 p = 1.000; HA7:OS-HA7 p = 0.0001) as well as entries in the open arm (ANOVA p = 0.039; NCS:HA7 p = 0.041; HA7:OS-HA7 p = 0.221; NCS:OS-HA7 p = 1.000). Open-field behavior, a measure of general locomotion and exploration, revealed statistically significant differences between groups in locomotion as a measure of transitions across quadrant boundaries. Additionally, the open-field assay revealed decreased exploration as well as decreased rearing in HA7 and OS-HA7 fed mice demonstrating a consistent pattern of increased anxiety-like behavior among these groups. Critically, behavior was not correlated with weight. These results indicate that diets based on resistant starch can be utilized to produce quantifiable changes in the gut microbiota and should be useful to “dial-in” a specific microbiome that is unique to a particular starch composition. However, undesirable effects can also be associated with resistant starch, including lack of weight gain and increased anxiety-like behaviors. These observations warrant careful consideration when developing diets rich in resistant starch in humans and animal models.


This article is published as M. Lyte, A. Chapel, J.M. Lyte, Y. Ai, A. Proctor, J. Jane, and G.J. Phillips, Resistant starch alters the microbiota-gut brain axis: Implications for dietary modulation of behavior. PLoS One, 11(1); e0146406. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146406.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Lyte et al



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