April 12, 2018, Paris, France: A diet that is Mediterranean style, and rich in vegetables and fermented milk products such as yoghurt, along with coffee, tea and chocolate, is associated with greater gut microbial diversity and a lower risk of hospitalization in patients with liver cirrhosis, according to the results of an international study presented today at The International Liver Congress™ 2018 in Paris, France. The study, which enrolled almost 300 individuals in the USA and Turkey, showed that the entire Turkish cohort, including healthy individuals as well as those with compensated and decompensated cirrhosis, had a significantly higher microbial diversity than their counterparts in the USA.1
Liver cirrhosis is a major, growing, and largely preventable cause of death worldwide, accounting for more than 1 million deaths globally per year.2 The risk of death from liver cirrhosis differs markedly between countries, driven primarily by alcohol consumption, the type and quality of alcohol consumed, and the presence of viral hepatitis B and C infections.2 Gut microbiota have been implicated in the pathogenesis and progression of cirrhosis,3,4 and a progressive decrease in microbial diversity is observed in healthy individuals, individuals with compensated cirrhosis, and those with decompensated disease.3
'Diet is a major determinant of gut microbial composition, but there is very little information currently linking diet, microbial diversity and clinical outcomes in patients with cirrhosis', said Dr Jasmohan Bajaj from Virginia Commonwealth University and McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, USA, and lead author of the study. 'Our hypothesis for this study was that diet and the severity of cirrhosis might interact to determine microbiota composition and, ultimately, clinical outcomes in patients with liver cirrhosis'.
The study presented by Dr Bajaj recruited three groups of individuals in the USA (n=157) and Turkey (n=139): healthy controls, outpatients with compensated cirrhosis, and outpatients with decompensated cirrhosis. All individuals underwent dietary and stool microbiota analysis and those with liver cirrhosis were followed for at least 90 days to capture data on non-elective hospitalizations.1 The US population tended to follow a Western diet with a relatively low consumption of fermented foods (yoghurt, ayran, curds) and a high consumption of coffee and carbonated drinks, while the Turkish cohort consumed a Mediterranean-style diet that was rich in fermented foods and vegetables.1
Stool sample analysis revealed that the entire Turkish cohort had a significantly greater diversity in their gut microbiota than the US cohort and that there was no difference in diversity between healthy controls and those with liver cirrhosis in Turkey. In contrast, in the US cohort, diversity was highest in the control group and lowest amongst those with decompensated cirrhosis. Coffee, tea, vegetables, chocolate, and fermented milk intake predicted a higher diversity, while the Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, lactulose use and carbonated drink consumption predicted a lower microbial diversity. There was a significantly higher number of all-cause and liver-related hospitalizations during the 90-day follow-up in the US cohort compared with the Turkish cohort (p=0.016 for all-cause; p=0.02 for liver-related).1
'This study demonstrates that patients with cirrhosis have gut microbiota profiles that are highly responsive to dietary factors, and it is the first study to confirm a link between diet, microbial diversity and clinical outcomes in liver cirrhosis', said Dr Bajaj. 'Additional studies are now required to evaluate whether dietary modification might improve both microbial diversity and clinical outcomes in these patients'.
'This is an important study stressing that an antioxidant-rich Mediterranean diet has a protective effect not only in the early phases of chronic liver disease, but also in its more advanced phases', said Prof. Annalisa Berzigotti from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and EASL Governing Board Member. 'Whether or not dietary changes can be used as a non-pharmacological tool to improve patients' outcomes in cirrhosis remains to be tested by specifically designed studies that take into account possible confounders. Nonetheless, this study adds to the existing evidence indicating a robust, pleiotropic beneficial effect of following a "Mediterranean-style diet" on human health'.
About The International Liver Congress™
This annual congress is the biggest event in the EASL calendar, attracting scientific and medical experts from around the world to learn about the latest in liver research. Attending specialists present, share, debate and conclude on the latest science and research in hepatology, working to enhance the treatment and management of liver disease in clinical practice. This year, the congress is expected to attract approximately 10,000 delegates from all corners of the globe. The International Liver Congress™ 2018 will take place from 11¬-15 April 2018 at the Paris Convention Centre, Paris, France.
About The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)
Since its foundation in 1966, this not-for-profit organization has grown to over 4,000 members from all over the world, including many of the leading hepatologists in Europe and beyond. EASL is the leading liver association in Europe, having evolved into a major European association with international influence, and with an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education and promoting changes in European liver policy.
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Session title: Parallel session: Cirrhosis and its complications: Experimental and pathophysiology Time, date and location of session: 17.45-18.00, Thursday 12 April 2018, South 1
Presenter: Jasmohan S Bajaj, USA
Abstract: Diet affects gut microbiota and modulates hospitalization risk differently in an international cirrhosis cohort (1056)
1. Bajaj JS, et al. Diet affects gut microbiota and modulates hospitalization risk differentially in an international cirrhosis cohort. Hepatology. 2018;doi: 10.1002/hep.29791 [Epub ahead of print].
2. Mokdad AA, et al. Liver cirrhosis mortality in 187 countries between 1980 and 2010: a systematic analysis. BMC Med. 2014;12:145.
3. Bajaj JS, et al. Altered profile of human gut microbiome is associated with cirrhosis and its complications. J Hepatol. 2014;60(5):940-7.
4. Qin N, et al. Alterations of the human gut microbiome in liver cirrhosis. Nature. 2014;513(7516):59-64.