High protein calorie restriction diets have shown clinical efficacy for obesity, but the mechanisms are not fully known. The intestinal microbiome is a mediator of obesity and preclinical data support an effect of high protein diet (HPD) on the gut microbiome of obesity, but there are few studies in humans. Methods: To address this, we conducted a dietary intervention trial of 80 overweight and obese subjects who were randomized to a calorie-restricted high protein diet (HPD) (30% calorie intake) or calorie-restricted normal protein diet (NPD) (15%) for 8 weeks. Baseline dietary intake patterns were assessed by the Diet History Questionnaire III. Longitudinal fecal sampling was performed at baseline, week 1, week 2, week 4, week 6, and week 8, for a total of 365 samples. Intestinal microbiome composition was assessed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Results: At baseline, microbial composition was associated with fiber and protein intake. Subjects on the HPD showed a significant increase in microbial diversity as measured by the Shannon index compared to those on the NPD. The HPD was also associated with significant differences in microbial composition after treatment compared to the NPD. Both diets induced taxonomic shifts compared to baseline, including enrichment of Akkermansia spp. and Bifidobacterium spp. and depletion of Prevotella spp. Conclusion: These findings provide evidence that weight loss diets alter the gut microbiome in obesity and suggest differential effects of HPDs compared to NPDs which may influence the clinical response to HPD.
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