Mixed-linkage β-glucans are fermented by the colon microbiota that give rise to SCFA. Propionic and butyric acids have been found to play an important role in colonic health, as well as they may have extraintestinal metabolic effects. The aim of the present study was to investigate how two whole-grain barley varieties differing in dietary fibre and β-glucan content affected caecal SCFA, gut microbiota and some plasma inflammatory markers in rats consuming low-fat (LF) or high-fat (HF) diets. Barley increased the caecal pool of SCFA in rats fed the LF and HF diets compared with those fed the control diet, and the effect was generally dependent on fibre content, an exception was butyric acid in the LF setting. Furthermore, whole-grain barley reduced plasma lipopolysaccharide-binding protein and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, increased the caecal abundance of Lactobacillus and decreased the Bacteroides fragilis group, but increased the number of Bifidobacterium only when dietary fat was consumed at a low level. Fat content influenced the effects of barley: rats fed the HF diets had a higher caecal pool of acetic and propionic acids, higher concentrations of amino acids and higher amounts of lipids in the portal plasma and liver than rats fed the LF diets; however, less amounts of butyric acid were generally formed. Interestingly, there was an increase in the caecal abundance of Akkermansia and the caecal pool of succinic acid, and a decrease in the proportion of Bifidobacterium and the Clostridium leptum group. In summary, whole-grain barley decreased HF diet-induced inflammation, which was possibly related to the formation of SCFA and changes in microbiota composition. High β-glucan content in the diet was associated with reduced plasma cholesterol levels.
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