Causal relationships among the gut microbiome, short-chain fatty acids and metabolic diseases

Microbiome-wide association studies on large population cohorts have highlighted associations between the gut microbiome and complex traits, including type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity1 . However, the causal relationships remain largely unresolved. We leveraged information from 952 normoglycemic individuals for whom genome-wide genotyping, gut metagenomic sequence and fecal short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels were available2 , then combined this information with genome-wide-association summary statistics for 17 metabolic and anthropometric traits. Using bidirectional Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses to assess causality3 , we found that the host-genetic-driven increase in gut production of the SCFA butyrate was associated with improved insulin response after an oral glucose-tolerance test (P= 9.8 × 10−5 ), whereas abnormalities in the production or absorption of another SCFA, propionate, were causally related to an increased risk of T2D (P= 0.004). These data provide evidence of a causal effect of the gut microbiome on metabolic traits and support the use of MR as a means to elucidate causal relationships from microbiome-wide association findings.

year of publication



  • Nature Genetics


  • Sanna, S
  • Kurilshikov, A
  • Vich Vila, A
  • Franke, L
  • Zhernakova, A
  • Wijmenga, C
  • et al.

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