Dietary lignans, plasma enterolactone levels, and metabolic risk in men: exploring the role of the gut microbiome

Yanping Li, Fenglei Wang, Jun Li, Kerry L. Ivey, Jeremy E. Wilkinson, Dong D. Wang, Ruifeng Li, Gang Liu, Heather A. Eliassen, Andrew T. Chan, Clary B. Clish, Curtis Huttenhower, Frank B. Hu, Qi Sun, Eric B. Rimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The conversion of plant lignans to bioactive enterolignans in the gastrointestinal tract is mediated through microbial processing. The goal of this study was to examine the relationships between lignan intake, plasma enterolactone concentrations, gut microbiome composition, and metabolic risk in free-living male adults. Results: In 303 men participating in the Men’s Lifestyle Validation Study (MLVS), lignan intake was assessed using two sets of 7-day diet records, and gut microbiome was profiled through shotgun sequencing of up to 2 pairs of fecal samples (n = 911). A score was calculated to summarize the abundance of bacteria species that were significantly associated with plasma enterolactone levels. Of the 138 filtered species, plasma enterolactone levels were significantly associated with the relative abundances of 18 species at FDR < 0.05 level. Per SD increment of lignan intake was associated with 20.7 nM (SEM: 2.3 nM) higher enterolactone concentrations among participants with a higher species score, whereas the corresponding estimate was 4.0 nM (SEM: 1.7 nM) among participants with a lower species score (P for interaction < 0.001). A total of 12 plasma metabolites were also significantly associated with these enterolactone-predicting species. Of the association between lignan intake and metabolic risk, 19.8% (95%CI: 7.3%-43.6%) was explained by the species score alone, 54.5% (95%CI: 21.8%-83.7%) by both species score and enterolactone levels, and 79.8% (95%CI: 17.7%-98.6%) by further considering the 12 plasma metabolites. Conclusion: We identified multiple gut bacteria species that were enriched or depleted at higher plasma levels of enterolactone in men. These species jointly modified the associations of lignan intake with plasma enterolactone levels and explained the majority of association between lignan intake and metabolic risk along with enterolactone levels and certain plasma metabolites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Enterolactone
  • Lignan
  • Metabolic
  • Metabolites
  • Microbiome


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