Skip to main content Accessibility help

Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult human subjects

  • Giada De Palma (a1), Inmaculada Nadal (a1), Maria Carmen Collado (a1) and Yolanda Sanz (a1)

Diet influences the composition of the gut microbiota and host's health, particularly in patients suffering from food-related diseases. Coeliac disease (CD) is a permanent intolerance to cereal gluten proteins and the only therapy for the patients is to adhere to a life-long gluten-free diet (GFD). In the present preliminary study, the effects of a GFD on the composition and immune function of the gut microbiota were analysed in ten healthy subjects (mean age 30·3 years) over 1 month. Faecal microbiota was analysed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and quantitative PCR (qPCR). The ability of faecal bacteria to stimulate cytokine production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was determined by ELISA. No significant differences in dietary intake were found before and after the GFD except for reductions (P = 0·001) in polysaccharides. Bifidobacterium, Clostridium lituseburense and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii proportions decreased (P = 0·007, P = 0·031 and P = 0·009, respectively) as a result of the GFD analysed by FISH. Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium longum counts decreased (P = 0·020, P = 0·001 and P = 0·017, respectively), while Enterobacteriaceae and Escherichia coli counts increased (P = 0·005 and P = 0·003) after the GFD assessed by qPCR. TNF-α, interferon-γ, IL-10 and IL-8 production by PBMC stimulated with faecal samples was also reduced (P = 0·021, P = 0·037, P = 0·002 and P = 0·007, respectively) after the diet. Therefore, the GFD led to reductions in beneficial gut bacteria populations and the ability of faecal samples to stimulate the host's immunity. Thus, the GFD may constitute an environmental variable to be considered in treated CD patients for its possible effects on gut health.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult human subjects
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult human subjects
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult human subjects
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Yolanda Sanz, fax +34 963636301, email
Hide All
1Marsh, MN (1992) Gluten, major histocompatibility complex, and the small intestine. A molecular and immunobiologic approach to the spectrum of gluten sensitivity (‘celiac sprue’). Gastroenterology 102, 330354.
2Sollid, LM (2002) Coeliac disease: dissecting a complex inflammatory disorder. Nat Rev Immunol 2, 647655.
3Gianfrani, C, Auricchio, S & Troncone, R (2005) Adaptive and innate immune responses in celiac disease. Immunol Lett 99, 141145.
4Cinova, J, Palová-Jelínková, L, Smythies, LE, et al. (2007) Gliadin peptides activate blood monocytes from patients with celiac disease. J Clin Immunol 27, 201209.
5Cosnes, J, Cellier, C, Viola, S, et al. (2008) Incidence of autoimmune diseases in celiac disease: protective effect of the gluten-free diet. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 6, 753758.
6Malandrino, N, Capristo, E, Farnetti, S, et al. (2008) Metabolic and nutritional features in adult celiac patients. Dig Dis 26, 128133.
7Nadal, I, Donat, E, Ribes-Koninckx, C, et al. (2007) Imbalance in the composition of the duodenal microbiota of children with coeliac disease. J Med Microbiol 56, 16691674.
8Sanz, Y, Sánchez, E, De Palma, G, et al. (2008) Indigenous gut microbiota, probiotics, and coeliac disease. In Child Nutrition and Physiology, pp. 210224 [Overton, LT and Ewente, MR, editors]. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
9Elder, JH, Shankar, M, Shuster, J, et al. (2006) The gluten-free, casein-free diet in autism: results of a preliminary double blind clinical trial. J Autism Dev Disord 36, 413420.
10Farran, A, Zamora, R & Cervera, P (2004) Tablas de Composición de Alimentos CESNID (CESNID Food Composition Tables), 2nd ed.Barcelona: McGraw-Hill/Interamericana.
11Collado, MC, Calabuig, M & Sanz, Y (2007) Differences between the fecal microbiota of coeliac infants and healthy controls. Curr Issues Intest Microbiol 8, 914.
12Amann, RI, Binder, BJ, Olson, RJ, et al. (1990) Combination of 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes with flow cytometry for analyzing mixed microbial populations. Appl Environ Microbiol 56, 19191925.
13Harmsen, HJM, Wildeboer-Veloo, AC, Grijpstra, J, et al. (2000) Development of 16S rRNA based probes for the Coriobacterium group and the Atopobium cluster and their application for enumeration of Coriobacteriaceae in human feces from volunteers of different age. Appl Environ Microbiol 66, 45234527.
14Langendijk, PS, Schut, F, Jansen, GJ, et al. (1995) Quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization of Bifidobacterium spp. with genus specific 16S rRNA-targeted probes and its application in fecal samples. Appl Environ Microbiol 61, 30693075.
15Harmsen, HJH, Gibson, GR, Elfferich, P, et al. (1999) Comparison of viable cell counts and fluorescence in situ hybridization using specific rRNA-based probes for the quantification of human fecal bacteria. FEMS Microbiol Lett 183, 125129.
16Manz, W, Amann, R, Ludwig, W, et al. (1996) Application of a suite of 16S rRNA-specific oligonucleotide probes designed to investigate bacteria of the phylum Cytophaga-flavobacter-bacteroides in the natural environment. Microbiology 142, 10971106.
17Poulsen, LK, Lan, F, Kristensen, CS, et al. (1994) Spatial distribution of Escherichia coli in the mouse large intestine inferred from rRNA in situ hybridization. Infect Immun 62, 51915194.
18Franks, AH, Harmsen, HJM, Raangs, GC, et al. (1998) Variations of bacterial populations in human faeces measured by fluorescent in situ hybridization with group specific 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes. Appl Environ Microbiol 64, 33363345.
19Hold, GL, Schwiertz, A, Aminov, RI, et al. (2003) Oligonucleotide probes that detect quantitatively significant groups of butyrate-producing bacteria in human feces. Appl Environ Microbiol 69, 43204324.
20Suau, A, Rochet, V, Sghir, A, et al. (2001) Fusobacterium prausnitzii and related species represent a dominant group within the human fecal flora. Syst Appl Microbiol 24, 139145.
21Wallner, G, Amann, R & Beisker, W (1993) Optimizing fluorescent in situ hybridization with rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes for flow cytometric identification of microorganisms. Cytometry 14, 136143.
22Collado, MC & Sanz, Y (2007) Quantification of mucosa-adhered microbiota of lambs and calves by the use of culture methods and fluorescent in situ hybridization coupled with flow cytometry techniques. Vet Microbiol 121, 299306.
23Matsuki, T, Watanabe, K, Fujimoto, J, et al. (2002) Development of 16S rRNA-gene-targeted group-specific primers for the detection and identification of predominant bacteria in human feces. Appl Environ Microbiol 68, 54455451.
24Malinen, E, Kassinen, A, Rinttilä, T, et al. (2003) Comparison of real-time PCR with SYBR Green I or 5′-nuclease assays and dot-blot hybridization with rDNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes in quantification of selected faecal bacteria. Microbiology 149, 269277.
25Medina, M, Izquierdo, E, Ennahar, S, et al. (2007) Differential immunomodulatory properties of Bifidobacterium longum strains: relevance to probiotic selection and clinical applications. Clin Exp Immunol 150, 531538.
26Kinsey, L, Burden, ST & Bannerman, E (2008) A dietary survey to determine if patients with coeliac disease are meeting current healthy eating guidelines and how their diet compares to that of the British general population. Eur J Clin Nutr 62, 13331342.
27De Graaf, AA & Venema, K (2008) Gaining insight into microbial physiology in the large intestine: a special role for stable isotopes. Adv Microb Physiol 53, 73168.
28Collado, MC, Donat, E, Ribes-Koninckx, C, et al. (2009) Specific duodenal and faecal bacterial groups associated with paediatric coeliac disease. J Clin Pathol 62, 264269.
29Swidsinski, A, Loening-Baucke, V, Vaneechoutte, M, et al. (2007) Active Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can be specifically diagnosed and monitored based on the biostructure of the fecal flora. Inflamm Bowel Dis 14, 147161.
30Schell, MA, Karmirantzou, M, Snel, B, et al. (2002) The genome sequence of Bifidobacterium longum reflects its adaptation to the human gastrointestinal tract. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 99, 1442214427.
31Mosmann, TR (1994) Properties and functions of interleukin-10. Adv Immunol 56, 126.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed